Noise Study Ready to Get Underway in Chelsea

Don’t expect the jumbo jets to stop roaring over Chelsea anytime soon, but a new noise study could lead to a better understanding of sound levels and their health effects in the city.

The Community Noise Lab at Boston University’s School of Public Health is conducting the study and collecting data free of charge to the city over the coming year. Last week, Erica Walker, the founder of the Community Noise Lab, met with residents at GreenRoots to discuss the scope and goals of the study.

“This is a study that is being done not just in Chelsea, but in several communities across Greater Boston,” said Walker.

While there is an obvious interest from residents and city officials about noise levels from Logan Airport, Walker noted that the Noise Lab studies are about more than the straightforward measuring of decibels.

The Community Noise Lab’s approach is centered on community-identified noise issues, which it investigates using real-time sound monitoring as well as a downloadable phone app, NoiseScore, Walker said.

With the support of the community, the data is used to understand noise issues and their impacts.

“A lot of studies look at only how loud the noise is, not the frequencies and other issues,” Walker said. “We are also interested in noise that you can feel and how it impacts your health.”

Walker pointed to a sound map that she helped create for Boston, with one side showing sound levels, and the other factoring in the perception of noise by residents in different neighborhoods.

“East Boston is not one of the loudest areas in the city, but the perception of noise in the neighborhood is through the roof,” Walker said.

In Chelsea, the Noise Lab’s study will include the use of eight noise monitors that will be rotated at different locations throughout the next several months. Those monitors will be placed both at the residences of volunteers, and at various municipal locations. 

Walker said there are currently about 50 locations slated for monitoring.

In addition, Walker encouraged residents to download and use the NoiseScore app, which can provide real-time recording of noise levels for use in the study. 

There is also a community noise survey she urged residents to take part in on the Community Noise Lab website at  noiseandthecity.org.

City Councillor Roy Avellaneda asked if the collected data will be able to correlate noise with airplane traffic.

“It won’t be as specific as that, but we can correlate (the data) with general air flight data over the area,” Walker said. She also noted that the study is about more than tracking noise from Logan airport.

“The data will be freely available to use,” she said. While the study probably won’t be enough to change flight patterns over Chelsea by itself, Walker said it will arm the city with information.

During the presentation, City Manager Tom Ambrosino asked when the noise study would get underway.

“We are just waiting for the greenlight,” Walker said.

“You have the greenlight,” Ambrosino said. “Go for it.”

At a City Council meeting earlier this month, Ambrosino also stated that there have been discussions with a Georgia firm to conduct additional noise testing at a cost of $25,000. The City Manager recommended the Council approve using money from the City’s stabilization fund to pay for the additional testing.

District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop said he supports noise testing, but was against funding it from the city’s stabilization fund, which he said should be the last option for funding city programs and requests.

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