The Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) is calling for ‘balance and respite’ when scheduling flights in and out of the new Western Sydney International Airport, with independent studies warning of negative health impacts from nighttime aircraft noise.
The warnings are contained in WSROC’s submission in response to the Australian Government’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS) of the environmental, health, social and economic impacts of the airport’s proposed flight paths.
“The Western Sydney International Airport is a seven day a week, 24-hour operation and the possible harm to health from this continuous operation is one of the chief reasons for the analysis in our submission focusing carefully on night-time noise,” said WSROC President, Councillor Barry Calvert.
“Problems arising from frequent sleep disturbance we consider to be the biggest ongoing threat to residents’ health arising from the airport’s operation.
“Elderly people, pregnant women and people with ill health have a more fragmented sleep structure and are more vulnerable to disturbance.
“Shift workers are at risk because their sleep structure is already stressed.
“Children are often seen to be less sensitive to night noise. However, their sleep requirement is higher.”
The Council says residents are likely to be affected across a swathe of Western Sydney suburbs — including Luddenham, Greendale, Silverdale, Wallacia, Kemps Creek, The Oaks, Silverdale, and Cobbitty.
The study points to potentially negative health outcomes ranging from sleep disturbance to possible adverse cardiovascular impacts affecting people living under the new airport flightpaths and a range of other noise assessment deficiencies in the airport Environmental Impact Study.
The proposed Western Sydney International Airport project will be one of the largest and most complex infrastructure projects in Australia. The airport is being built on Commonwealth land known as Badgerys Creek in the Liverpool City Council Local Government Area.
The initial plan for the airport considers an initial single-runway eventually handling up to 185,000 aircraft movements and 37 million passengers each year by around 2050, after which a dual runway is proposed with a total theoretical maximum capacity of 370,000 aircraft movements per year and 82 million passengers by 2063.
In response to concerns from several Western Sydney councils, WSROC approached the Centre for Health Equity Training, Research and Evaluation at the University of NSW and leading acoustics consultancy Marshall Day Acoustics, to independently review the noise component of the EIS and how it relates to health outcomes to guide WSROC’s submission and the potential submissions of member councils.
“Our overall objective was to review the health effects of aircraft noise in the draft EIS, its measures of noise exposure and their relevance for health effects, the thresholds for health concern, and proposed measures for control and mitigation,” said Councillor Calvert.
“With noise impacts identified a key consideration, both stakeholders and key decision makers require a complete understanding of the net impact of future aircraft operations.
“The Marshall Day Acoustics peer review considered the broader assessment of noise impacts presented in the draft EIS including airspace architecture, social and health impacts, the impacts on the environment and the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, among other things.
“We independently reviewed the literature on the health effects of aircraft noise, taking as a starting point the ‘enHealth’ guideline ‘The health effects of environmental noise’.
The ‘enHealth’ (Environmental Health Standing Committee) guideline advises the Australian government on environmental health policy, bringing together expertise from Australian, State and Territory health departments and research councils.
“The ‘enHealth’ guidelines allowed us to review the appropriateness of health risk assessments which are part of the EIS and to assess noise metrics and their relevance for health, thresholds for health concern, and control and mitigation to protect health,” said Councillor Calvert
“Principal among the health effects considered for which there was an evidence base were sleep disturbance, cardiovascular outcomes and even potential cognitive outcomes.
“Equity or fairness about who is impacted needs to be considered when scheduling aircraft movements, flight departure times and the direction of aircraft take-offs and landings.
“So, balance and respite need to be brought into the equation.
“We were careful to conduct a literature review that updated the 2018 ‘enHealth’ document, including 80 new studies across sleep, CVD, annoyance, cognitive, other health concerns, and control and mitigation.
“The EIS identifies threshold levels that, according to our analysis, could surpass thresholds for unacceptable harm.
“There should be ongoing consultation with the community and stakeholder reference group to minimise to the extent practicable the impact of aircraft overflight noise.”