South metro cities work to curb airport noise

By Justin Boron

Lorean Seals often catches herself talking well above conversational volume at work, unintentionally yelling at times.

When a co-worker points out her faux pas in office etiquette, she said she chalks it up to a force of habit.

Seals' diminished vocal restraint has developed as a result of her eight years spent living in Forest Park, where the cacophonous drone of overhead planes works to interrupt conversations and startle light sleepers at night.

"It's like they're coming in on top of the house," she said. "They start getting loud right up in this area . . . if you got your binoculars you can see the people."

As many as 80,000 flight operations can come through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in a month, making it impossible to avoid the noise each plane produces.

The impact of the high noise levels can be seen in the way citizens talk on their neighborhood streets and in their homes.

With people unaccustomed to overhead planes, conversations progress intermittently in the cities surrounding the airport, stopping and starting to accommodate the noise of planes.

With people like Seals, who are able to ignore the aerial vestiges of aural tumult, the pace of conversation remains steady as their voice naturally acclimatizes to an audible level when a plane rumbles overhead.

Whatever way a person adjusts to the roar of planes scathing Forest Park rooftops, adaptation to the noise pollution may be less necessary in the future.

South metro city governments are working to pass legislation that applies new soundproofing technology to residential buildings..

Forest Park recently amended its building code to include Noise Level Reduction (NLR) measures in homes, said Steve Pearson, the director of planning and zoning.

"The amended building code now requires sound attenuation regulation and standards for all new residential development within the city," he said.

The building restriction prohibits the construction of a residence with an interior noise level above 45 decibels, ensuring the health and peaceful enjoyment of the resident, according to the ordinance.

College Park has adopted a similar measure as well.

Strides to dampen noise pollution have been calibrated to preempt the increase in noise volume that city and airport officials anticipate will come with the completion of the fifth runway, Pearson said.

"The ultimate outcome is for all jurisdictions surrounding the airport to adopt and implement consistent regulation and standards to mitigate noise pollution," he said.

The Aviation Department at Hartsfield-Jackson is working to determine a noise mitigation strategy, which may include soundproofing the area around the airport through property acquisition.