Toulouse airport scrutiny on noise and air pollution

Toulouse airport has come in for scrutiny over its pollution levels, as local residents complain about heightened plane noise and a new report shows that air quality in the city continues to deteriorate.

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According to reports, traffic levels at the busy Toulouse-Blagnac airport rose by a significant 8.7% in the past year, with 103,000 planes either leaving or arriving. Levels are also expected to continue rising by 1.6% per year for the next four years, with the number of planes arriving or leaving expected to reach 111,000 per year by 2022.

This has prompted concerns that this will adversely affect noise pollution levels - especially during the sensitive hours of 22h and midnight - with the number of complaints over noise in the airport area reported to have quadrupled in 2017 compared to the year before.

The the last third of 2017, Toulouse plane noise agitation group, the Collectif Contre Les Nuisances Aériennes de l'Agglomération Toulousaine (CCNAAT), recorded 5,600 too-loud planes (recording at over 75 decibels), compared to just 2,900 in the same time period in 2016.

Speaking to news source 20 Minutes, president of the CCNAAT, Chantal Beer-Demander, said: “The hours of 22h to midnight are the most disturbing, because that is when most people are trying to get to sleep.”

At a meeting with the environment commission ATB, Beer-Demander also pushed for an “extension in surveillance over noise levels, especially between 23h and midnight” and asked for more details on the data collected on the issue by ATB.

The airport’s operations director, Alain de la Meslière, admitted that noise levels were higher than they had been previously, but said that the airport had been sharing its data for the past six years. The airport is also planning to “invest one million euros to change the current data system”, he said, which would allow residents to directly check the data themselves.

He added that the rise in the number of complaints was largely due to the very hot summer, which saw many people keeping their windows open overnight.

And yet, there were no plans to reduce the number of flights between 22h and midnight. “We need this low-cost activity in these hours,” said de la Meslière.

The problem is not only confined to noise; air pollution levels around the airport and the city in general have also come in for scrutiny, with a study published this week by regional air quality group Atmo showing that up to 5% of the Nox (nitrogen oxide) emissions, 2% of the damaging small particles (Pm 10 and Pm 2.5), and 3% of greenhouse gases recorded around the city come from the airport alone.

And yet, most of the damaging emissions appear to be concentrated around the runways and airport car parks, and are able to be dispersed fairly quickly, limiting the “direct impact on surrounding populations”, said Atmo, with the main roads surrounding the airport found to be more polluting overall.

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