After an extensive public process and a two month comment period, the Secretary of Environmental Affairs has determined that "removal of the blast fence will not significantly affect the environment" and will not require further environmental study. The certificate confirmed Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) analysis that the fence has only the most minimal effect on noise and air quality emissions.
In addition, the Secretary cited Massport's commitment to contractually maintain the existing airport noise rules and to provide $4 million in community benefits as "more than appropriate to mitigate any damage to the environment."
Prior to voluntarily filing the Environmental Notification Form (ENF), Massport conducted 10 community briefings on the blast fence to share information with local residents and listen to proposals for mitigation. As a result of those meetings, Massport has agreed to enter into a legal contract with the community to maintain the existing airport noise rules governing arrivals on Runway 22R and departures on Runway 4L, and committed $4 million to fund civic and environmental programs as proposed by the Bayswater Blast Fence Committee (BFC), a nine-member community group. All together, almost 20 meetings have been held regarding the removal of this safety hazard.
The BFC is currently negotiating the legally binding commitment with Massport to maintain the existing noise rules, and considering a mitigation program. The committee has met six times thus far. Massport is moving forward with its plans to remove the fence as soon as possible.
Massport's safety concerns about the blast fence were heightened by several aircraft accidents that occurred recently including a number resulting in fatalities. According to studies, the benefits of the blast fence to the Bayswater community are very minimal and better results could be achieved through mitigation.
On Thursday, January 4, 2001 the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office (MEPA) held a consultation hearing on the blast fence as part of the community process and in keeping with regulations governing the filing of an ENF. Various community residents attended the meeting as well as members of the BFC, officials from Baystate Environmental Consultants (consultants to the BFC), and representatives from local elected officials. Massport voluntarily filed the ENF on the blast fence to provide a comprehensive opportunity for community review. Massport provided $10,000 for the Blast Fence Committee to hire Baystate Environmental as their independent consultant and assist them with their review and comment on the blast fence ENF. Though the original ENF review period was extended from 30 days to 45 days, Massport requested two additional extensions from MEPA, for a 66-day comment period.