Westchester County Airport Affects Westchester Health, Experts Say

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HARRISON, N.Y. -- Noise pollution and de-icer runoff from the Westchester County Airport is negatively affecting the surrounding residents and environment, experts said.

According to Dr. Arline Bronzaft of Grow NYC, noise levels above 60 decibels can have an adverse effect on health. The sound consistent of planes taking off can cause hearing loss. It can also cause stress, which leads to aggression, heart problems and stroke.

“People have to recognize that noise is a pollutant,” said Bronzaft. “It’s a serious pollutant and it has an adverse effect on well being. And I think the literature is full of studies that prove that noise is harmful to people. It is harmful physically and psychologically. It’s not just an annoyance and I think we have to stress that.”

Purchase College is located next to the airport. Some students find that the noise affects their studies and  interferes with their conversations.

“It’s really annoying when I’m studying in my room since I usually have my windows open," said Sarah Brody, a student and Purchase. "As soon as you get concentrated on something a plane goes by every 10 minutes and it definitely breaks your concentration."

According to Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Purchase Ryan Taylor, the Propylene Glycol used to melt ice on planes can affect Blind Brook, which runs through the airport and Purchase College campus.

The airport has drainage systems in place to catch the majority of the glycol. However, when planes take off some deicer sheers of the wings and into the environment, this is known as “fugitive deicer.”

Glycol is essentially sugar, so when it is washed into the brook it feeds bacteria in the water causing them to multiply, environmentalists said. When there the brook is iced over it is keeping oxygen out, and the bacteria use up the majority of the oxygen that is there.

“When oxygen goes away and these bacteria are eating the sugar and they are fermenting," Taylor said. "What happens is that all of the oxygen in the water gets used up too and gets sucked out.”

Residents of areas near the airport need to protect themselves, especially from the noise levels. According to Bronzaft double glazed windows are extremely important to keep out noise. Air conditioners can also mask the noise and keep people from opening their windows and letting sound in.

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Thank you for this informative article. I had not thought about the glycol issue. My only concern is with the suggestion to combat the noise problem by running air conditioners more frequently...that is not good for the environment either. Thanks again.

I totally agree!!!

What came first, the chicken or the egg? The County Airport has been at its location far longer than the new additions to the area that is served by the airport. As a young boy growing up in Port Chester, our family enjoyed a Sunday car ride to the Airport, parking next to the tarmac and watching the aircraft taking off and landing. Granted that the size and frequency of the air traffic has changed, I still believe the builders of the homes on King Street and other local areas, knew that the airport was there when plans were drawn to convert the farm land, former psychiatric hospital and open space to viable structures. The County Airport to me is a blessing. When I go to my annual family reunion in North Carolina, I can drive 4 miles to the airport, leave and return to Port Chester with minimal difficulty. As for the noise and other health issues reported, I would hope that all the factors considered for a safe environment be considered.