Guest Op-Ed: Massport’s Obligations to East Boston, Revere and Winthrop for Environmental Mitigation

By John Vitagliano

As the economy begins to recover from COVID-19 the nation’s airports have experienced a dramatic increase in passenger travel, over 80 percent of total passenger throughput in July, 2021 compared to July, 2019 as measured by TSA data. This significant upward trend applies to Logan Airport as well. While the airline recovery is beneficial for the nation’s economy its environmental implications are ominous, particularly for Logan Airport’s neighboring communities of East Boston, Revere and Winthrop which have suffered for decades from the severe environmental impacts of Logan’s aircraft operations which peaked at 427,176 in 2019 and are predicted to increase with Massports’ approval of five new airline destinations in 2019.

Not only do East Boston, Revere and Winthrop suffer daily from Logan Airport’s constant egregious noise impacts, routinely exceeding the DNL 65 dB sound level which is the federally defined level for residential land use incompatible with aircraft noise, but just as important if not more so are the severe health impacts associated with the pollutants from Logan airport, identified in a recent environmental study as a “ known polluter”, describing “the airspace of Logan Airport as a pollutant source”.

Among these Logan Airport pollutants are carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone and particulate matter (PM), identified by epidemiologists as the most dangerous. PM particles are associated with the most adverse health outcomes, with ultrafine particles (UFPs) smaller than 100 nm in diameter the greatest threat. UFPs can penetrate deep into lungs, enter the bloodstream and cross the blood/brain barrier.

As Massport proceeds with a 2.6 billion dollar capital program at Logan Airport, and the agency on the verge of receiving a huge amount of federal infrastructure funding to complement the $144 million in federal Care funds received last year, it is imperative that Massport acknowledge the severe environmental impacts endured by its neighboring communities of East Boston’s Orient Heights and Eagle Hill, Revere’s Beachmont and Winthrop’s Point Shirley and Court Park sections. Massport must immediately proceed with the development of an effective, integrated environmental mitigation program for these three communities involving soundproofing and HEPA purifiers to cope with Logan Airport’s deleterious environmental impacts. Massport should development this environmental remediation program regardless of the availability of federal funding, utilizing its own financing and bonding capability. The health of East Boston, Revere and Winthrop requires it.  

John Vitagliano is a former Massport Board Member and Boston Transportation Department Commissioner

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