Aug 24, 2023 - News

Denver's top noise contributor is its airports, study finds

A flight training plane landing at Centennial Airport in Englewood in 2022. Photo: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Denver has a reputation for being smelly and having some of the worst air quality in the U.S. Now, add noise pollution to the mix.

Why it matters: Too much noise can be terrible for your health.

Driving the news: Denver ranks fourth-noisiest among mid-sized U.S. cities, per a study from commercial real estate listings platform 42Floors.

  • The study defines the noisiest cities based on airport takeoffs and landings, construction activity, population density and car use.

Details: The city's top noise contributor, according to the study, is its surrounding airports, including Denver International Airport, Centennial and Rocky Mountain Metropolitan.

  • Another factor hurting our ears: traffic. Denverites spend 51 hours each year in congestion, the third-longest time for mid-sized cities, according to the latest TomTom Traffic Index analysis.
  • The city's development boom is also at play, with more houses within earshot of construction. Denver's health department is pursuing changes to the noise code to better balance development needs and resident concerns, spokesperson Emily Williams tells us.

State of play: Noise complaints at local airports, including Rocky Mountain Metropolitan and Centennial — two general aviation airports where pilots practice repeated touch-and-go landings — have been on the rise amid a flurry of new flight training programs, the Denver Post reports. Some nearby residents have even filed lawsuits.

  • Members of Colorado's congressional delegation have asked the Federal Aviation Administration to step in with more restrictions on air traffic patterns and introduced legislation to help.

Zoom in: Noise complaints are up at DIA, too. In 2022, DIA totaled 2,694 — a 13% increase compared to 2019, an Axios Denver analysis of airport data found.

  • This year, DIA's complaints are well on pace to exceed 2022 figures. The airport recorded 2,026 noise complaints as of June 30, already three-fourths of what was reported in all of 2022.

Yes, but: Most complaints come from just a few dozen households, and that number has been falling in recent years, DIA spokesperson Stacey Stegman tells us.

Of note: Denver airport officials recently renewed a contract for consulting services through 2026 to analyze the effects of aircraft noise on surrounding communities. The move comes at a time when large housing and commercial developments are rapidly underway in the area.

  • Meanwhile, United Airlines announced plans this month to purchase more than 100 acres near DIA to expand its training grounds for pilots — which is bound to bring more noise.

The big picture: According to the Times, chronic noise is a largely unrecognized health threat affecting more than 100 million Americans.

  • Studies show the louder levels you live with, the higher your chances are for cardiovascular disease, stress-related illnesses, high blood pressure and sleep disruption.

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