Two significant environmental occurrences happened in October 2021 concerning Aurora Airport and its impacts on the citizens and lands surrounding it.
Forever chemicals at Aurora Airport
First, the Statesman Journal published an article on the 20th titled “EPA identifies more than 750 Oregon sites that could expose people to forever chemicals.” The chemicals in view are PFAS, poly-fluorinated substances that have been in use since the 1940’s and have been associated with a variety of health problems.
As the article documents, 43 of those sites are in Marion County and the Aurora Airport is among them. As the article points out:
They are referred to as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in the environment or human body, and can accumulate over time. They aren’t subject to federal or state regulations, but growing evidence points to their adverse health effects, including some cancers.
This should be a major concern to residents in the Aurora Airport impact area because it was only less than a decade ago that Oregon Dept. of Aviation manager to deftly maneuver through the process of receiving FAA approval and funding to construct the air traffic control tower at Aurora and did so without conducting an environmental assessment.
That’s right! Major construction at Aurora Airport following over sixty years of aviation use and no environmental assessment.
Why does that matter? Because ODA is about a launch a new master planning process that aims to extend the runway and expand the airport, and we can fairly assume that they will work hard to avoid and environmental assessment again, regardless of what they say publicly.
Impacts of leaded avgas on surrounding communities
In late October, Oregon Aviation Watch sent out the following notice:
Earthjustice Submits Updated Petition Requesting Endangerment Finding for Leaded Aviation Fuel
On 10/12/2021, Earthjustice sent the EPA an updated version of the petition requesting an endangerment finding for leaded aviation fuel. It was initially sent on 8/24/2021. The link to the updated petition in its entirety is available at Earthjustice Petition.
One of the primary changes is the decision by the Wisconsin Town of Middleton in Dane County to sign on as a petitioner. As explained in the revised document,
“Consistent with its duties to protect the public health and safety, the Town of Middleton has a significant interest in protecting all its residents, especially children, from the airborne lead exposure from general aviation operations. The Town of Middleton is investing significant resources in investigating the extent of airport-related lead emissions there.
“The Town of Middleton is located adjacent to the City of Middleton’s predominantly recreational municipal airport, Middleton Municipal Airport – Morey Field (also known as Morey Airport or C29). The area of the Town located in the vicinity of Morey Airport is primarily a relatively dense area of single-family residences. The Town of Middleton and City of Middleton are separate legal entities. According to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources data, Dane County has the second highest level of airborne lead emissions in the State of Wisconsin, and Morey Airport operations annually produce a substantial percentage of all airborne lead emissions in Dane County. Areas around and in the immediate vicinity of Morey Airport in the Town and City of Middleton are highly developed with residences, schools, parks, and playgrounds that are impacted by airborne lead from Morey Airport operations. Conservatively, over 5,000 children spend time in residences and schools within three miles of Morey Airport boundaries in the Town and City of Middleton and other adjoining communities.”
Accompanying the petition was an updated letter of support. The opening paragraph reads as follows:
“The undersigned 57 organizations and 146 medical professionals, professors, advocates, and other individuals submit this letter in support of the October 12, 2021 updated petition, originally submitted on August 24, 2021, of Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Center for Environmental Health, Friends of the Earth, Montgomery-Gibbs Environmental Coalition, and Oregon Aviation Watch, and by the County of Santa Clara, California and the Town of Middleton, Wisconsin, petitioning the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) to make an endangerment finding under section 231 of the Clean Air Act that leaded aviation gasoline (“avgas”) contributes to air pollution that harms public health and welfare.”
The physical reality is that the runway at Aurora is on a north/south axis and that means the vast majority of take offs and landings fly over residential areas in Marion County as well as Charbonneau and south Wilsonville.