Tagged: human rights

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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Noise Pollution Manifesto

MANIFESTO DRAFT
by Noise Vibration Action Group
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1 It is a fundamental human right of individuals, communities, cities and nations that they be able to live without the blight of noise pollution.

2 Noise pollution must be controlled to levels that:
•Do not harm health
•That allow normal functioning, well being and development
•That allow adequate duration and quality of sleep (8 hrs adult , 10-12 hrs children)

3 The ‘polluter pays principle’ should be upheld at all times, ie those responsible for creating or who benefit from the process that generates the pollution should bear the cost of taking measures to address it.

4 The ‘precautionary principle’ should be upheld, ie where there is reason to believe that noise or vibration might be harmful, the onus is on those who generate such emissions to prove, with independent verification, that the levels are not harmful or detrimental to health, well-being or sleep.

5 The public should be made aware of the risks from noise pollution through public health bodies and health and well being media outlets.

6 Medical professionals and environmental regulators should be educated on the risks, symptoms and illnesses that result from noise pollution and of the exposure levels at which these occur.

7 Bodies responsible for environmental standards
or quality of life should act in an effective and timeous manner to ensure these are achieved.

8 Inadequate resources such as insufficient staffing, funding or legislative powers may result in an organization or individual being unable to fulfill their role in regulating or addressing issues of noise pollution or vibration. Where this is the case, all persons responsible must formally notify pertinent senior persons or bodies, including the government and health organizations, of their inability to act effectively and the consequences for the affected population.

9 Legal action must be taken wherever possible against individuals or organizations whose actions or failure to act (such as neglect of duty to monitor or regulate), result in the emission of noise pollution that is prejudicial to health, undermine well-being or breach human rights.

10 Vested interests such as persons whose activities, membership, employment are related to the generation of noise pollution should not have any representation on committees, boards or advisory groups whose role is to maintain health, protect the environment or represent the interests of the community who may be subjected to the noise pollution.

11 Impartiality of data and advice or other expertise is essential. This necessitates that consultants or experts who act in the interests of clients who produce noise pollution are not at any point employed in the regulation or assessment of noise pollution, or the development of standards or policies.¹

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

Why this manifesto?Noise pollution has a highly negative impact on humans and other organisms and causes significant harm to the natural and social environment. Those against it are asked to distribute this manifesto and, wherever possible, to raise awareness, take action or make representation to reduce or eliminate this pollution both for themselves and for others

Definition: Noise pollution is any noise or vibration, audible or inaudible (eg infra sound) , that is introduced by artificial means into the environment that causes harm, discomfort, .

Background: Noise pollution is widespread and increasing and is being generated in the name of ‘progress’ and to serve commercial priorities. The impact includes heart disease, high blood pressure, tinnitus, stress-related illnesses, developmental problems in children and, through sleep deprivation, lower immunity, obesity, inflammation of joints, aggression, deterioration in judgement, coordination and reaction time, inability to memorize, increased susceptibility to accidents. Advised limits, including exposure-dose response relationships have been documented in World Health Organization publications in 1995, 1999, 2005, 2009, 2011. These are based on peer-reviewed studies and give increasingly adamant warnings of the need for controlling this pollution.

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COMPLAINT FORM – IMPACT OF RAILWAY ON RESIDENTS

GETTING A COMPLAINT FORM

Click here to download a complaint form . This will open a new page with a download button. Just click the download button (and direct download option) and it will save a PDF file to your computer. PRINT for yourself and for any neighbours who are affected. The form is 3 pages long, you only fill in the first page which is the essential part (takes about 5 minutes), but you should include page 2 as this is the request for the Council to take action. Page 3 is additional information and is optional. It’s a good idea to keep a copy of what you’ve filled in, then post or hand it in to your own Council at the address below. If you have problems, email nvaguk@gmail.com

Alternatively, phone the Council, tell them you want to make a Formal Complaint about Environmental Pollution and give them the relevant information using the form as a guide. [Posting or handing the form in is probably better].

WHERE TO SEND THE COMPLAINT FORM

COUNCIL ADDRESSES AND PHONE NUMBERS:

CLACKMANNANSHIRE  Lynn Parsler, Environmental Health, Clackmannanshire Council, Greenfield, Alloa, Clackmannanshire, FK10 2AD, Tel: 01259 450000

STIRLING  Mr B Friel, Environmental Health, Stirling Council, Viewforth, Stirling FK8 2ET, (from landline): 0845 277 7000, Phone (from mobile): 01786 404040, Text: 07717 990 001

STIRLING HAND IN POINT Stirling residents can also hand complaints in at Stirling Council’s Thistle Centre  Office:  Customer First, 1 – 5 Port Street, Stirling FK8 2EJ  (bottom of KIng Street) 9 am – 5.30 pm, Monday to Friday, but make sure it is properly addressed (to Mr B Friel, Environmental Health etc above) for it to reach the correct Council department.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

The Council should write to you telling you how they intend to deal with the problem. Keep any correspondence and watch out for announcements on the http://www.nvag.org.uk  website or keep checking your email for further developments.

Noise and vibration cause additional health risks as well as being a nuisance so do what you can to minimize exposure, make sure that you monitor your health, especially for blood pressure and cardiovascular issues. Parents should be aware that noise exposure causes cognitive developmental issues in children that may impact on their schooling. NHS Forth Valley have been informed and the Councils are taking steps to investigate the situation.

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 ].

Stirling Council have approved a Railway Noise and Vibration Working Group

Excellent News:

At a full Stirling Council meeting on 28th Feb 2013, the council approved a noise and vibration working group as one of the items on a busy agenda. An amendment was approved that changed both the timescale of the working group to 6 months and revised the membership. The working group now consists of the environment portfolio holder, Councillor  Danny Gibson, and the three Councillors of the Castle Ward: Councillor Johanna Boyd, Councillor Jim Thompson and Councillor John Hendry.  The remit focuses mostly on the problem of the SAK line although it will also look at the wider issues of rail noise and vibration.

Thanks goes to Councillor Mark Russel who suggested the formation of a working group as a way forwards during the Petition Panel consideration stage. Although not on the working group he is interested in its progress and has asked to be kept informed

NVAG welcome the creation of this group and are keen that the Councillors take on board the views of residents impacted by the noise and vibration and take measures to find an effective resolution to this five year old problem. Indications are that the group will call on locals, NVAG, Forth Valley Health Board and other  bodies such as the rail operators and government agencies.

NVAG would like to thank those residents who went to the trouble of collecting signatures that made this petition viable and also to Zara Kitson, who, although not a line side resident, suggested the petition at one of NVAG’s first meetings in 2012, and who spoke on its behalf at the petition panel hearing last month.

This is a positive step by Stirling Council for both democracy and accountability. When will Clackmannanshire Council follow this example and introduce a petition system so that hard-hit residents under its care have a voice in the democratic process?

A McIver, 5th Mar 2013

Stirling Council Make Positive Move on Train Noise and Vibration

Stirling Council’s new Petition Panel, chaired by Councilor Steven Paterson  were presented with a petition asking the council to take action on the noise and vibration from trains that is afflicting residents in the Council’s area. Archie McIver and Zara Kitson, who presented the petition, outlined the many promises and assurances that had been made then ignored by the promoters of the Stirling Alloa Kincardine rail line, SAK. It was described how Transport Scotland’s approach to the public had been not only duplicitous, but highly inconsistent and that they displayed complete disregard for health-based standards and the well-being of residents. The case was put that right across Stirling, not just on SAK, many residents were being exposed to noise levels that far exceed any modern standards and that vibration levels that were causing serious distress had not been adequately measured or addressed.

There was a good deal of pertinent questioning and support from the councilors present. Jim Thompson spoke about his involvement in Causewayhead Community Council at the time, their objections to Parliament and the manner in which they had been deceived. Mark  Russel expressed disappointment at the situation; he had been involved in the process of approval of the SAK line whilst an MSP in Scottish Parliament.

Valid points were made by other Councilors. Corrie McChord asked as to whether advice on the Council taking legal action had been provided by a QC. Apparently it had not.

The Councilors agreed to a proposal that a working group be set up to address this issue. This will be put to to the Council’s Planning and Regulation Panel for consideration on 29th Feb 2013.

Link to Stirling Council website:

http://my.stirling.gov.uk/news/view/21518/date:01-2013/type:all

PRESS RELEASE: Families hopes of peace and quiet dashed by Transport Minister

PRESS RELEASE by Thompson’s Solicitors

For immediate release: 10:00hrs, 23rd November 2012

Families hopes of peace and quiet dashed by Transport Minister

No further testing for night noise and vibration to be carried out on Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine line

 

Families who live close to the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine railway line whose lives are being blighted by noise and vibration caused by overnight freight have had hopes for a solution dashed.

A series of Parliamentary questions tabled by Dr Richard Simpson, the MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, probed the Scottish Government on the situation following the introduction of night freight on the line which residents had been led to believe wouldn’t happen. The questions asked for details of testing for noise and vibration at residential properties along the line and about standards used to decide on mitigation measures.

Among the answers the Transport Minister Keith Brown MSP stated that vibration measurements had been concluded and that following repeated noise testing no additional properties would be tested for the first time. He also admitted that in reaching it’s conclusion regarding mitigation for properties along the line only four properties had actually been tested for vibration and just 11 for noise levels.

 

Campaigners claim the Scottish Government is refusing to protect them from the health risks associated with noise and that the Government has based this refusal on a 20 year old report which was commissioned to look at noise as a nuisance. They also claim that two decades of medical research that warn of chronic ill-health, sleep deprivation and stress are being ignored.

 

Chairman of the Noise Vibration Action Group Archie McIver has accused the Scottish Government of digging its heels in on the issue and said: “By using a defunct, 20 year-old standard called the Mitchell Report, the Scottish Government is refusing to protect line-side families from the harmful impact of night-time train noise.

 

There has been a total disregard for the health of people like myself and others who have to deal with interrupted sleep night after night, and the constant daily stress of being bombarded by noise. The financial loss of value to our property is tens of thousands of pounds but this is nothing compared to the struggle to work and to function in a sleep-deprived state. Driving is something we increasingly avoid because of the high risk.”

Thompsons Partner Patrick McGuire said: “The Scottish Government’s latest position on addressing the issue of overnight noise and vibration on the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine line is frankly not good enough. These families were told that the line would not be used for night freight and not only was this complete nonsense but there seems to be no appetite whatsoever to resolve the problem which is causing sleep deprivation and knock on health issues as a result for a large number of people”.

Commenting on the Ministers responses Dr Simpson MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, a former GP and Psychiatrist said: “The fact that this SNP Government and the Minister who is also a local MSP choose to ignore the suffering of many of my constituents shows a complacency which is uncaring in the extreme.

The designation threshold  for night time noise nuisance of 82db noise level and occurring more than once per hour means that these night coal trains can never be deemed a disturbance as they are always less frequent than hourly. The Minister and Transport Scotland officials should try sleeping at night in the affected households. It is a shameful disregard for the health and well being of those affected.”



ENDS

For further information or to arrange an interview please contact our 24 hour press office on:

Tel: 07887 687318

Email: louise.robertson@thompsons-scotland.co.uk