Category: Evidence

AECOM face Ethical, Human Rights, Professional Standards Questions

Who are AECOM?

AECOM describes itself as a global provider of professional technical and management support services in markets that include: transportation, facilities, environmental, energy, water and government. With headquarters in Los Angeles, California, United States and clients in more than 150 countries, AECOM reported a revenue of US$8.0 billion for the year ended March 31, 2014.

PERSONS RUNNING THE COMPANY:
John M. Dionisio  chairman and on Board of Directors.
Michael S. Burke- chairman and CEO.
Stephen M. Kadenacy-chief financial officer and president.
Kevin Lynch executive vice president and chief strategy officer
Carla Christofferson– executive vice president and general counsel.

AECOM HAVE BEEN SENT THE FOLLOWING LETTER

CONTEXT
I understand that AECOM has high environmental and ethical standards. However, as with any large corporation, things can, in certain sectors or situations go awry. I trust that AECOM, in keeping with its reputation, seeks to resolve occurrences such as the one outlined here involving as it does: Human Rights, public health, professional standards, ethics.

SUBJECT AREAS
The situation concerns:
•exposure of the public to high levels of noise pollution 
•environment
•public health
•human rights
•presentation of misleading information on health impact of noise pollution
•provision of advice in areas outside AECOM’s expertise
•the ad hoc creation of exposure criteria not approved by any competent health authority
•deviation from AECOM’s own stated role in the project
•advising that non-health based standards that were 30yrs old and that do not appear in the ES should be used rather than the health-based modern standards specified in the Environmental Statement for the project. 
•allocating night noise mitigation based on 30yr old standards that had not been approved in the official process.
•making unsubstantiated and irrational claims- noise of unlimited loudness, if limited to two occurrences per hour, is conducive to undisturbed sleep. 

SECTOR
AECOM provided consultancy services, carried out noise and vibration assessments for the reopened Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine railway, and generated subsequent reports, as required by the Environmental Statement for the development. This included advice on the provision of mitigation and advice on allocating  mitigation in compliance with commitments made in the ES.

The geographical location is Scotland.

EVIDENCE 
Documentation obtained by FOI requests and other measures is held for all of the above.

REQUEST 
I would be pleased if you would provide a contact person who will address this complaint and to advise on your formal complaints process.

RESPONSE FROM AECOM -NIL
So far, AECOM have been contacted five times. They have yet to respond to this letter. The AECOM website contact form was completed twice, they have been emailed, they have been contacted via twitter @AECOM twice. The only response has come via twitter once advising of an email address to use, once saying that an email had been received. No formal acknowledgment or reply has been received for the letter quoted above.

THE FUTURE OF CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY, CSR

If AECOM wants to be recognized as an ethical, sustainable, socially responsible company, then it has to be honest: that means not just publicising accomplishments but acknowledging and tackling it’s failings. We have seen VW’s reputation collapse primarily due to failure of standards. The consequences are massive and may cripple the company. VW are now seeking whistleblowers to expose the extent of the problem. AECOM’s senior personnel, CEOs, president, the board of directors, are ultimately responsible for the standards within their own corporation. As such, they have a key role in rooting out malpractice or failings wherever and whenever such arise. We look forwards to AECOM fully addressing not just the pollution, ethics, human rights, professional standards issue, but the apparent reluctance of personnel at corporate communication level to even acknowledge notification of this problem.

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Video Showing DB Bahn (DB Shenker) Noise Pollution”

Video of Freight Noise . This link takes you to a YouTube video of noise pollution from a DB Bahn owned freight train
image

Noise and Vibration Source. DB Bahn owned (DB Shenker UK) freight trains are causing high levels of noise pollution-up to 90dBLamax-and vibration for elderly and infirm residents. Further along the line, children are being shaken awake during the night.

The Railway Line
This UK line is six years old and is maintained and run by Network Rail. According to the UK environment agency, DEFRA, Network Rail manage the noise and vibration levels.

The People Exposed
On the left hand side of this video, immediately on the other side of the crossing, lies Sheltered housing. Many residents are in their 80s. This is not an isolated situation. It occurs day and night and impacts residents young and old right along the line.

We are emailing Deutsche Bahn
DB Environment Center, Berlin, Germany, a link to this video and asking them how they propose to address this issue. DB Bahn say they have high environmental standards.

DB Bahn Response
We will post their response to this problem in a subsequent post.

NVAG puts Noise, Vibration from Rail case to Scottish Human Rights Commission

“What do you consider to be the most urgent human rights issues which should be addressed in Scotland’s National Action Plan for Human Rights?” Question by Scottish Human Rights Commission, SHRC, as part of consultation.

Response by NVAG to SHRC:   The right to health, peaceful enjoyment of ones home and to the fundamental human needs of sleep and good health are currently being actively denied to many thousands of Scottish residents.

The consequences of noise exposure has been published by the World Health Organization  in 1999, 2005, 2009, 2011. In the last publication, Burden of disease from environmental noise. Quantification of healthy life years lost in Europe, noise was upgraded to the environmental pollutant with the second highest burden of disease in Western Europe. It also noted, that whilst other pollutants are being tackled and the impact decreasing, harm from noise is increasing. On the railways much of this comes from increasing levels of night freight. On one line surveyed, ten to fifteen trains run between 23.00 and 07.00. This appears typical. Children are exposed to significantly more train passes due to their longer sleep requirements.

Key bodies in Scotland refuse to acknowledge scientific and medical evidence regarding noise and vibration exposure for residents and the need to protect against chronic sleep deprivation.

The Scottish Government, through one of its agencies, Transport Scotland, promotes high noise- level standards for night rail traffic that bear no relation to any modern health standards. Their argument, based on a 20yr old report, is that it is appropriate to allow unlimited levels of noise, twice an hour (in excess of 82dBLamax) during the night without mitigation for residents. This contradicts all modern health standards and defies common experience: loud noise wakens people. Official noise assessments show levels are four times louder than the 60dBLamax level at which the WHO advises conscious awakenings start to occur. The result, not surprisingly, is repeated awakening by residents and chronic sleep deprivation.

Network Rail has a policy of running trains 24/7 and claims that it is unable to refuse freight access if paths are available on the line. It also refuses to accept any responsibility for noise or vibration exposure to residents. Repeated enquiries to NR eventually ascertained that they acknowledge no noise or vibration standards. Regardless of how high the exposure to residents, NR does not regard it as a fault or a reason to cease operating. NR were asked as to what residents should do, when, having been woken repeatedly night after night, they are faced with driving, operating machinery, or performing tasks that require concentration, judgment or responsibility. Do they put themselves and others at risk or phone in sick? Network Rail refused to advise. Residents have to make that choice.

The Office of Rail Regulation requires Network Rail to have a sustainability policy but emphasizes that they do not do environmental monitoring and that the local authority are the body charged with dealing with environmental health problems.

Local authorities deal with domestic noise issues but are extremely reluctant to do so for noise or vibration from bodies who have statutory authority. In one instance in Scotland, on a modern railway line, where standards in the Environmental Statement approved by Parliament are being exceeded every night, repeated requests by residents to serve noise abatement orders have been refused. The environmental health officers said that they’d taken legal advice and had been told that they’d have no chance of winning if they took the case to court. Instead of a court deciding, the decision was made without the chance of those afflicted to present evidence, based, not on the consideration of a judge but on the advice of an anonymous expert, with no record taken of the discussion or points made and no public or independent scrutiny.

Many public health officers and even doctors in the UK are not aware of the problems caused by noise and sleep deprivation. This is surprising. A huge amount of detailed analysis and documented evidence has been published by the WHO over the past 14years; many internationally-recognized research groups, University-based, have presented studies. The public, however, are largely unaware of the impact of noise beyond that of damage to hearing and presume wrongly that they are not harmed if they ‘get used to’ the levels of noise. The WHO advises of stress, high blood pressure, ischemic heart disease, physiological, psychological and social deterioration. A Cambridge study in 2013 found that sleep deprivation for just one week caused several hundred changes in the DNA of the human body. A study into HIV immunization in the USA IN 2012 found, as have several other studies, that sleep deprivation has a highly adverse impact on the immune system. The British Medical Journal states that there is now no doubt that sleep deprivation has a serious impact on health. Children are worst affected and suffer significant developmental and educational issues in addition to the health problems.

The noise and vibration pollution caused by traffic can be difficult to attribute but for railways it is both attributable and systematic in nature. Studies of parliamentary and business communication (FOISA) indicate that ignoring or downplaying the issue is part of a deliberate policy by promoters, often the Government working with private companies, and operators, to avoid the cost of providing protection from the noise and vibration they produce. Mitigation measures are available and are employed widely in the EU. When asked to apply practices or measures by petitions committee PE1273 at the Scottish Parliament during 2009-2011 the response from the organizations involved was that it was not commercially viable. It is viable in mainland EU.

A framework of complaint bodies and regulations exist but, whilst some daytime noise issues are addressed, night noise is almost unregulated. The public are left to suffer. If a corporation were to release toxins or ionizing radiation into residents’ homes at levels far exceeding those advised by health bodies to prevent physiological, psychological and behavioural problems, there would be immediate action and prosecutions. Strangely, once the label ‘noise’ is added, there is intransigence, disbelief, denial of medical evidence, failure to monitor and refusal to apply legal measures.  What is particularly insidious is that there is no escape for residents: this is a pollutant that relentlessly penetrates their homes, their place of rest and refuge; they are subjected to this in the commercial interests of the polluters.

[Please note: this is the case put by NVAG for consideration by SHRC. SHRC is not affiliated or in any way connected to NVAG ].

“Noise pollution . . . a threat to public health,” World Health Organization 2011

Evidence provided by the  World Health Organization on health effects of traffic-related noise in Europe
 Bonn and Copenhagen, 30 March 2011

THIS IS A DIRECT QUOTE OF THE FULL ARTICLE as issued by the World Health Organization. ALL RIGHTS ACKNOWLEDGED. THIS ARTICLE is NOT by NVAG

“Traffic-related noise accounts for over 1 million healthy years of life lost annually to ill health, disability or early death in the western countries in the WHO European Region. This is the main conclusion of the first report assessing the burden of disease from environmental noise in Europe, released today by WHO/Europe. Noise causes or contributes to not only annoyance and sleep disturbance but also heart attacks, learning disabilities and tinnitus.

“Noise pollution is not only an environmental nuisance but also a threat to public health,” says Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “We hope that this new evidence will prompt governments and local authorities to introduce noise control policies at the national and local levels, thus protecting the health of Europeans from this growing hazard.”

“Among environmental factors in Europe, environmental noise leads to a disease burden that is second in magnitude only to that from air pollution. One in three people experiences annoyance during the daytime and one in five has disturbed sleep at night because of noise from roads, railways and airports. This increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure.

“The new publication presents the results of an international study, coordinated by WHO/Europe and supported by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), that reviews the evidence on health effects, provides guidance to quantify risks from environmental noise and estimates the burden of disease in western European countries. Better surveillance and data collection are needed in south-eastern Europe and central Asia, where a lack of exposure data inhibits estimates of the extent of health effects in these parts of the Region.

“This new review of evidence is WHO’s contribution to the policy process in the European Union. We hope that it can influence the update of the European Union directive to include stricter limit values for noise pollution, and that it can be extended to other parts of the Region,” comments Rok Ho Kim, Scientist, Noise and Health at WHO/Europe, who coordinated the WHO project to draw up the report.

“To protect public health from environmental noise, collaboration between WHO/Europe, the European Commission and the European Environment Agency is increasingly strengthened, with the aim of implementing in a synergistic way the 2010 Parma Declaration and the European Union’s noise-related directives. This collaboration is enabled by the common noise assessment methodological framework (CNOSSOS-EU) being developed by the European Commission,” says Dr Stylianos Kephalopoulos, coordinator of CNOSSOS-EU.

“This publication is primarily for policy-makers, experts, supporting agencies and other stakeholders that need to estimate and act on the effects of environmental noise. It provides the basis for revised WHO guidelines on noise, which Member States requested at the Fifth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health, held in Parma, Italy in 2010.

“For questions about the data contained in the guidelines, contact:

Dr Rok Ho Kim
Scientist, Noise and Health, Bonn Office, WHO Regional Office for Europe
Hermann-Ehlers-Str. 10
D-53113 Bonn
Germany
Tel.: +49 228 815 0421
E-mail: rki@ecehbonn.euro.who.int

For further information and interview requests, contact:

Ms Cristiana Salvi
Technical Officer, Partnership and Communications, Rome Office, WHO Regional Office for Europe
Via Francesco Crispi, 10 – 4th floor
I-00187 Rome
Italy
Tel.: +39 06 4877 543, +39 348 0192 305 (mobile)
E-mail: press.he@ecr.euro.who.int
New evidence from WHO on health effects of traffic-related noise in Europe

Bonn and Copenhagen, 30 March 2011

Evidence of Noise and Vibration

Professional measuring equipment for this is expensive and requires regular calibration however:

Council Environmental Health

You could inform the council’s environmental health department that, in your opinion, your household is being subjected to unreasonable or health-harming levels and request that they take measurements. This request may be met with some resistance and you may be offered reasoning as to why this is not helpful/necessary/relevant/etc. It is our understanding that the council have a legal duty to provide a safe environment and reasonable standards for you to live in and that they are legally obliged to investigate situations where that is not the case. Ask that you be given a note of the measurements and that they be taken at  times when the noise and vibration are at their most severe. Keep a record of the request. Once you have the levels, you may want to ask the rail operators to address the issue. If they do not,  or your request to have the levels measured was refused, you should consult a  legal representative about how to take the case forward.

Your Own Records

You can by a basic noise meter for about £50. You can also download smartphone apps that will turn your smartphone into a noise level meter. These will not satisfy professional standards but are better than no readings at all and could be a basis for you asking Environmental Health, Network Rail or legal representatives to take measurements or to act.

Apps for android phones: 
‘Noise’ by the Swedish Work Enviroment Authority. Noise meter and calculator. FREE
‘Noisetube Mobile’ by Sony CSL Paris. Plots graph of noise levels against time. Can upload to noise tube website. FREE
‘Smart Voice Recorder’  A sound recorder with settings that only records when noise exceeds a certain level (red horizontal line on  can be dragged to level you want) FREE
Vibration measuring apps are available but none that have been found effective. PLEASE LET US KNOW IF YOU FIND OTHERWISE.

Apps for iphones:
Suggestions welcome.