Noise, a by-product of urbanization and industrialization, is increasingly recognized as an environmental nuisance which affects human health and wellbeing. In order to prevent noise nuisances from arising in the first place, noise considerations are incorporated in the assessment of development proposals and in the preparation of land-use plans in Israel. Prevention and abatement efforts also encompass the use of simulation and forecast models for traffic and aircraft noise, regulatory measures and education.
The Environment Ministry’s noise prevention policy rests on three foundations: development of emission and ambient standards; collection of data, and mapping of existing and potential noise sources; and treatment of existing noise sources side by side with prevention of potential sources. Environmental policy seeks to balance two legitimate needs infrastructure development and environmental protection, ensuring that environmental concerns are taken into consideration in development planning.
Since most noise problems manifest themselves on the local level, municipalities play an important role in the prevention and control of noise within their jurisdiction. Local authorities are authorized to set noise limits within the framework of business licenses while local environmental units are instrumental in handling noise complaints. The Ministry of the Environment assists local units in the purchase of noise measuring equipment and in the training of personnel. A guidebook on noise assessment and abatement methods has been distributed among all of israel’s municipal environmental units as well as among planners and developers to provide them with the necessary tools for incorporating noise abatement measures in the early stages of planning. Land transport, air transport, stadiums, playgrounds, industrial installations and quarries all are covered in the guidebook.
Motor Vehicle Noise
By far the greatest source of noise in urban areas is the motor vehicle. Traffic noise is chronic rather than acute. It reaches levels high and persistent enough to disturb concentration and relaxation, but not high enough to cause physical damage to hearing.
New vehicles purchased in Israel must meet noise regulations (comparable to those set by the European Union), but once they leave the showroom, cars are not subject to noise requirements. Efforts are now being made to incorporate noise tests within the framework of obligatory annual inspections using appropriate equipment. As a first step, it is anticipated that noise inspections will be carried out by the registration institutes for public transportation to ensure that noise levels emitted by buses do not exceed set standards.
In recent years, progress has been achieved in the abatement of one particularly disturbing noise source: the motorcycle. Cooperation between the Ministry of the Environment and the police has yielded positive results in the enforcement of noise standards. Motorcycles which exceed the standard (some 25% of those checked on the road) are fined or taken off the road until a retest reveals compliance with the regulations.
The type, age, maintenance level and quantity of vehicles also affect noise levels. The problem of automobile noise is exacerbated by the relatively old age of vehicles used in Israel and by the high price of spare parts, which cause car owners to postpone maintenance.
In a socio-acoustic study of noise pollution conducted in 1986 in the Tel Aviv area, 52.5% of respondents considered noise to be the major disadvantage of their residential area, significantly higher than any other single disadvantage. However, only 20.1% of those questioned pinpointed noise as an environmental problem they would seek to rectify, and only 9.3% had ever taken steps to complain about vehicular noise. In recent years, the readiness of the population to organize against noise nuisances has risen dramatically. A prominent example is the response of residents of the Tel Aviv metropolitan area to the development of a major road network (Netivei Ayalon). Their demands led to the construction of thousands of meters of acoustic barriers. In busy urban areas, where residential units are adjacent to traffic arteries, complaints concerning noise frequently reach 80% of total complaints regarding environmental nuisances.
Prevention of Vehicular Noise
Regulations setting maximum noise levels for roads constitute one means of diminishing traffic noise. While the Ministry of Transport has published regulations limiting noise from automobile engines, horns and mufflers, the regulations are not specific enough to be effectively enforced.
To fill the void until the establishment of an obligatory standard for roadside noise, the Ministry of the Environment has adopted the standards set by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration as criteria for road planning and adjacent land uses. These recommendations, which set a maximal noise level of 67dB(A) for roads planned near residential areas, are incorporated within the framework of environmental impact statements prepared for road construction. They have been fully adopted by planning authorities responsible for the approval of road plans. The Public Works Authority estimates that some six kilometers of acoustic barriers, spanning an area of 25,000 square meters at a cost of $5 million, will have been constructed in 1993/4 alone.
An advisory committee on noise standards has recently submitted its recommendations for a maximal noise level of 64 dB(A) for new roads and adjacent land uses. The proposed standard, adapted to conditions specific to Israel (e.g. greater use of open spaces, open windows), will not totally prevent noise nuisances, but should help close the gap between the ideal and the possible. The standard has already been adopted in the planning for the proposed Trans- Israel Highway, Israel’s largest-ever transportation project. (Further details on the Trans-Israel Highway are presented in the Environmental Planning chapter).
While noise is invariably taken into consideration in the planning of new roads, noise reduction on older, existing roads remains problematic. Recent results of road monitoring in the Tel Aviv area have revealed noise levels in the 75-80 Db(A) range in several busy intersections. Since the proposed standard does not apply to existing traffic arteries, other means must be undertaken to minimize the noise reduction of noise at source, proper traffic management and control at the receptor level. Proper traffic management (e.g. changes in transportation patterns, reduced speed, restrictions on the entry of heavy vehicles, changes in the number and location of traffic lights and stop signs, encouragement of mass transport) along with wise land-use planning, acoustic barriers and acoustic insulation in buildings can significantly decrease noise levels.
On the planning front, the Ministry of the Environment advises the national, district and local planning authorities on the use of noise abatement measures in land-use planning and building. Environmental impact statements are generally presented to the District Planning and Building Commissions along with plans for roads or junctions. The ministry employs a model which forecasts the distribution and intensity of noise impacts from predicted traffic flow, and evaluates the effectiveness of alternative measures to reduce noise impact. Even minor changes in the routing of a proposed road may alleviate noise problems from the outset; after the route is fixed, acoustic screens (based on U.S. Federal Highway Administration models) or treatment of residences may be required.
Air Traffic Noise
Unlike traffic noise, aircraft noise impacts wide areas well beyond the airport itself, both in terms of nuisances and conflicting land uses. Its effect is much more drastic than vehicular noise, and it has traditionally elicited stronger reactions and activism on the part of the affected population. To effectively deal with the problem, several measures must be taken, including establishment of noise standards, control of flight patterns and procedures, land- use planning and acoustic treatment of exposed buildings.
Israel’s major airport, Ben-Gurion International, is situated in the midst of the densely-populated coastal plain, encompassing 23 communities, including the metropolitan area of Tel Aviv, various sized towns and small rural areas. The noise-impacted area is estimated at 160 square kilometers with a population numbering in the hundreds of thousands.
Eilat airport, which is located within the city limits, constitutes a noise nuisance for local residents and tourists alike. Plans have been approved to remove the airport, which serves charters for domestic and international flights, from its current location to Ein Evrona, some 11.5 kilometers northwards.
At Herzliya’s domestic airport, which serves as a flight school and maintenance field for agricultural aircraft, noise problems have precipitated regulations forbidding use of the airport before 6:30 a.m.; pilot training is still conducted in the airport, but crop dusting, which once constituted a large portion of the airport’s activity, is based elsewhere.
Sde Dov, serving the metropolitan Tel Aviv area, constitutes yet another noise source due to its ever-increasing civilian activities and the location of the terminal a mere 50 meters away from residential areas in northern Tel Aviv. This airport, which serves as a military airfield as well as a civilian airport, is now subject to various restrictions. These include restrictions on nighttime activity (9:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.) and prohibitions on running engines and towing airplanes between the terminal area and the takeoff/landing path. The Ministry of the Environment and the municipality of Tel Aviv have called for the prohibition of all nighttime operations in the airport (from the early hours of the evening until the morning). In addition, a decision in principle has been made to transfer the civilian terminal to another location in the near future.
Relative to its size, Israel has a large number of military airfields, some situated near densely-populated areas. Noise maps for military airports serve as a foundation for land-use planning. Increased awareness on the part of the Israel Air Force of the need for noise prevention has led to two significant decisions: a decision to appoint an environmental quality officer to deal with noise issues resulting from the operation of military aircraft and a decision to establish a noise monitoring system around one of Israel’s noisiest military airports.
Prevention of Aircraft Noise
Sophisticated models exist for the evaluation of aircraft noise. The Ministry of the Environment, as well as the Israel Airports Authority, employs the model developed by the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority
(Integrated Noise Model) which uses three parameters to measure the level of exposure: noise level in decibels; number of flights during the day; and number of flights at night (the latter weighted more heavily than the former). The resulting unit of measurement is called Day-Night Leverage
(LDN). The ministry’s guidelines recommend that construction be limited in areas exposed to noise levels exceeding 60 LDN, and that alternative sites be located for aviation facilities in areas where sound levels exceed this figure and noise-sensitive residential or institutional areas are affected. Only when alternatives are unavailable is acoustic treatment of buildings considered.
These guidelines have largely been adopted in the National Outline Scheme for Airports, recently submitted to the National Board for Planning and Building for approval. The masterplan includes directions on planning, building and sensitive land uses in areas exposed to aircraft noise based on cumulative exposure contours. It establishes restrictions on land use in the environs of 24 existing and planned airports (excluding Ben-Gurion International Airport and Sde Dov Airport which are included in separate masterplans). Restrictions are imposed in accordance with the sensitivity of various land uses to noise levels. For example, sensitive land uses in regions exposed to noise levels between 60-65 dB(A) require acoustic measures; and sensitive land uses in regions exposed to noise levels above 65 dB(A) are prohibited.
The masterplan delineates noise contour maps which estimate the extent of exposure anticipated for each airport; categorizes land uses according to their sensitivity to aircraft noise; classifies the planning processes which may be utilized to implement noise abatement regulations; and establishes the means which may be taken to reduce conflicts between sensitive land uses and airport noise (e.g. guidelines for acoustic building and building restrictions).
Following approval of the plan, a special committee on noise issues, including a representative of the Ministry of the Environment, will be established. Its functions, inter alia, will be: to advise the planning agencies in implementing planning and building regulations in areas exposed to aircraft noise; to deliberate on requests for special permits by the planning bodies; to adapt acoustic guidelines to new technological developments; and to update land uses in accordance with their sensitivity to noise.
Noise Prevention in Ben-Gurion Airport
In view of its size and unique problems, a separate masterplan was drawn up for Ben-Gurion International Airport, originally constructed in 1936. The plan, to be submitted to the National Planning and Building Board along with an environmental impact statement in 1994, has received added momentum this year following the Israel Airport Authority’s request for approval of a new terminal to accommodate increased tourism. While airport capacity now stands at 4 million passengers, the number of passengers passing through the airport has increased from some 4.3 million in 1992 to 5 million in 1993. The current plan calls for the development of the airport in stages (5 million in the first stage, 9 million in the second and 16 million in the third stage).
The Ben-Gurion masterplan includes an abatement of nuisances plan with specific directives on land uses in the areas surrounding the airport and recommendations on the adoption of regulations for noise restriction according to the guidelines of the International Civil Aviation Organization. The regulations concerning noise abatement are enforced by means of a monitoring system as is eligibility for noise abatement solutions for existing land uses. The noise monitoring system, initiated in 1991 but fully operational only as of 1993, is designed to monitor and prevent excessive noise levels in the populated areas under the westerly departure corridors. The system includes seven remote noise monitoring terminals with real-time data collection capability and a central control and monitoring system to correlate noise violations with flight data.
Maximal noise levels are set for each locality in dB(A). Monthly reports, including details on aircraft and flight companies violating the standard, are received by the relevant local authorities and the Ministry of the Environment. At present, the Airports Authority has decided not to press charges against pilots who contravene the law, but warnings are issued and in most cases flight companies make the necessary efforts to comply with the standards.
To further improve the monitoring system and to identify deviations from the flight path, the number of monitoring stations will soon be increased and a radar-based path enforcement system will be installed. Improvements will enable the Ministry of the Environment to receive data from the system online and to establish a center for citizen complaints.
While regulations defining unreasonable noise from aircraft have not been promulgated within the framework of the Abatement of Nuisances Law, Ministry of Transport regulations on noise from aircraft establish noise standards in accordance with international conventions. A recent amendment to the 1986 Aviation Regulations on the operation of aircraft and flight procedures authorizes the imposition of penalties on pilots or flight companies responsible for noise levels exceeding the maximal limits established for each community located beneath the takeoff corridor. Furthermore, first- generation aircraft are prohibited in Israel. By the year 2002, all aircraft allowed to operate in Israel will be third-generation aircraft.
Other Noise Sources
Industrial noise is controlled through the regulation of ambient noise levels in the workplace and the provision of protection to workers exposed to excessive noise. Maximum noise levels are set by the Safety at Work Ordinance at 85 dB(A) for an eight-hour exposure period. However, no law exists requiring factory equipment to meet noise specification standards. The 1990 Abatement of Nuisances Regulations on unreasonable noise provide ambient standards for noise at various places, including industrial and commercial enterprises (see table below).
Construction noise, particularly in urban areas, is also a major problem. Regulations setting standards for performance and design of construction machinery to limit noise have been promulgated. Unreasonable noise is defined as noise exceeding 80 dB(A).
Finally, residential noise generated by televisions, stereos, air conditioners, alarms and conversations constitutes an important factor in noise pollution. In Israel’s mild Mediterranean climate the problem is exacerbated, since families spend a great deal of time outdoors and leave the windows open when at home. Israel’s noise pollution legislation is primarily directed toward neighborhood noise sources (e.g. musical instruments, radios, noisy repairs, and sirens). In case of violations, individuals file charges or call upon the relevant authorities to help abate the noise.
Legal Framework for Noise Prevention
Section 2 of the Abatement of Nuisances Law, 1961, states that "a person shall not cause any considerable or unreasonable noise, from any source whatsoever, if it disturbs or is likely to disturb a person in the vicinity." Regulations were issued pursuant to this law in 1966 to restrict noise levels in residential neighborhoods at night and during the afternoon siesta. The regulations also forbid the use of a siren when unnecessary or the running of a vehicle without a muffler. In 1977, additional regulations were promulgated, defining unreasonable noise as "permanent or changing noise whose duration and measured level exceed the level specified in one of the appended charts." The charts establish permissible noise levels by type of neighborhood, time of day and duration of noise. New regulations were added in 1990 to include types of noise not covered by the initial regulations background noise, impulsive noise, infrequent explosive noise and pure tones in the spectrum. The regulations provide clear guidelines on criteria and methods for the measurement of noise.
In 1992, additional regulations were promulgated to control noise caused by air conditioners and alarms. The regulations set a six- minute time restriction on the operation of security alarms. The sound levels generated by such alarms must not exceed 87 Db(A) in a residential area and 95 Db(A) in a non-residential area. Illegally operating alarms must be shut down as soon as possible (within 30 minutes at most). If not shut off, a policemen or a person authorized by the Minister of the Environment may shut off the alarm. The duration of a car alarm must not exceed one minute or three cumulative minutes within a five-minute period. The noise generated by a car alarm may not exceed 87 Db(A). A 1992 amendment to the Abatement of Nuisances Law authorizes the police to take reasonable measures to shut off car alarms sounding for over 20 minutes.
New air conditioners must be clearly marked with maximum sound levels and must be accompanied by information sheets on proper installation and use in compliance with the law. It is forbidden to operate air conditioners in a manner which will cause unreasonable noise as defined in the regulations.
Abatement of Nuisances (Unreasonable Noise from Construction Equipment) Regulations, 1979, deal with construction noise by setting standards for the performance and design of construction machinery.
Vehicle noise is regulated pursuant to the Road Transport Ordinance. Regulations under this law set a standard comparable to that of the European Union for new vehicles.
Airport noise is regulated under the Aviation Law. Aviation regulations on aircraft noise forbid the operation of an aircraft without a noise certificate, while regulations on the operation of aircraft and flight procedures require adherence to established noise levels in areas covered by noise monitoring systems. Violations of these regulations are subject to punishment.
Draft standards for railroad noise have been prepared setting the limit at 65 dB(A) during the day and 55 dB(A) at night during peak hours in a residential neighborhood.
Draft standards for roadside noise have also been prepared setting the limit at 64 dB(A) during peak hours in residential neighborhoods. The proposed new standards provide procedures for noise surveys and noise abatement measures to help protect public health and welfare, to supply noise abatement criteria and to establish requirements for the provision of information. The draft standard calls for noise abatement measures to be undertaken not only when predicted traffic noise levels approach or exceed the recommended standard, but also when such levels are expected to substantially exceed (by more than 14 dB(A)) existing background noise levels.