Monza gears up for formula hush

By Ruggiero Corcella

The exhausts of the Ferrari 2005, and all other F1 racing cars, may have to be fitted with silencers. The roar would be reduced to a mew, not a sound that appeals to motor sport fans. But this, more or less, is the state of play after the verdict of the fourth civil section of the court of Milan regarding the Italian national circuit at Monza.

Judge Marco Manunta upheld the complaint presented by the noise abatement committee of Biassono, a small community adjoining the circuit. To be precise, the complaint was made by three families who live within 500 metres of the track and who in 2001 took SIAS, the circuit's management company, to court, along with the municipalities of Monza and Milan. The verdict is unequivocal. It bans "the performance of motor sport activities involving the use of vehicles not fitted with an appropriate silencing system".

In other words, the court has muffled noisy engines. The ruling has immediate effect because the judge issued an emergency provision in compliance with article 700 of the civil procedure code. The only way out for the managers of the circuit, and the municipalities that own it, is to adopt "appropriate measures to restrict noise emissions". At Monza, the battle of the decibels is a sore point. Environmental associations and families who live near the circuit have been in the front line of the battle against noise pollution for almost twenty years.

They complain that their lives have been turned into a nightmare. To get an idea, you have to remember that the roar of Formula One engines reaches 120 to 140 decibels. The legal limit for racing circuits is a daytime average of 70 decibels. From the medical point of view, the pain threshold is set at 83 decibels. This means that it is not just Grand Prix days that are in the dock, but the intensive use of the circuit during the year.

  An expert opinion, deposited by the court's technical consultant, looms over the circuit like a monolith. Tests carried out in the past two years have ascertained repeated violations of the law on noise emissions. "I'm happy", says Gilberto Pagani, the lawyer representing the noise pollution victims, "that at last the law has been applied, safeguarding something more important than the races, the right to health". The residents voice a certain caution. "This is only a battle won, but the war is going to drag on. The civil case, which is still in the court of first instance, will continue for a long time. But we do acknowledge that from today, the circuit can no longer be used for races". Unless, that is, the managers challenge the verdict and win an appeal.

The court's decision took SIAS and the owner municipalities by surprise. There is also the prospect of a further body blow in the form of damages, to be assessed in a separate judgement. "We still have to consult our lawyers, but it appears to defy all logic", protested Giorgio Beghella Bartoli, the circuit's technical manager. "Our activities comply with the law. If anyone wants to close the circuit, they can go ahead".

On Saturday and Sunday, the Monza Rally Show will take place. "But I don't think we should call it off", adds Mr. Beghella Bartoli. The mayor of Monza, Michele Faglia, is also cautious. "I issue 37 exceptional authorisations every year, including the Formula One Grand Prix days. If the sentence refers to one of these, we are absolutely in order".

English translation by Giles Watson,

From Corriere della Sera

Noise through the ages

By G. Ludewig

On occasion I am inclined to think how placid and quiet "the good old days" must have been; but, then as now, that was true only for the wealthy who could afford to live away from a city's densely populated areas. I came across two passages in the last few months which, though no consolation, are evidence that our predicament is nothing new.

'Mozart - The Golden Years', by H.C. Robbins Landon: a contemporary describes Vienna - "If there is a new opera or play, the racket of the carriages, the stamping of the horses' hooves and the barking of the coachmen as they cross the Graben and the Kohlmarkt combine to make a hellish concert."

  From 'The Ancient Engineers', by L. Sprague de Camp, here is a Roman horror story: "Street traffic was so dense that Julius Caesar ordered wheeled vehicles [with certain exceptions] to move in the city streets at night only. This law, renewed from time to time while the Western Empire lasted, thinned the daytime crush of traffic. But light sleepers were kept awake all night by the rumble of cartwheels, the shouts of the carters, and the screech of ungreased axles." - I think I would have had to become a shepherd.

Noise from heat pump resolved
"Just to let you know our neighbours have now installed a sound blanket over the compressor and the technician changed the fan blades of the unit so they are properly balanced. This has made all the difference in the world. Now we cannot hear the unit in our house and, when outside, it sounds like a regular fan and the noise it now makes is not bothersome. Please let anyone else bothered by the noise of a heat pump know about this solution."

Right to Quiet Society Newsletter, Winter 2006
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