The effects on the quality of life of neighbors of the Santa Monica Airport (SMO) dominated the Town Hall Meeting hosted by Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl and the Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP).
Martin Rubin, Director of CRAAP, in his opening remarks noted Airport “neighbors are growing increasingly upset about the harmful effects that jet operations have on their health and quality of their lives. Ninety percent of all noise violations are caused by jet traffic. The threat of a jet crashing into an adjacent residential neighborhood looms as a potential catastrophic event.” He later pointed out in his presentation that jet operations have grown at SMO from “about 1,000 in 1983 to about 19,000 in 2007.”
At the January 22 meeting, Rosendahl mentioned that “Santa Monica officials are going to meet with the Federal Aviation Administration [as well as Congressman Henry Waxman and Congresswoman Jane Harmon] about safety issues with certain categories of jets” on January 29. In a letter read by Harmon’s representative, Harmon asked James Oberstar, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, that the meeting also “focus attention on potential health impacts, especially on children and seniors who live near the SMO.”
State Assemblymember Ted Lieu also spoke. He and Assemblywoman Julia Brownley sponsored State Assembly Bill 700, which would have required the City of Santa Monica “to establish a technical advisory committee to evaluate all relevant and appropriate studies and data regarding the” Santa Monica Airport. AB 700 would also have made it mandatory for the City to “on or before January 1, 2009, prepare and submit to the FAA and the Legislature a report with recommendations about potential actions that could be taken to reduce air quality impacts caused by air traffic connected with the Airport thereby imposing a state-mandated local program.” Lieu stated the bill “was held in the Senate Appropriations Committee,” which killed the bill. He vowed a similar bill “will go further this year than last year.”
A panel of experts discussed some of the relevant research on the airport. The South Coast Air Quality Management District’s (SCAQMD) Atmospheric Measurements Manager, Philip M. Fine, Ph.D., mentioned his air quality study at the Airport found elevated levels of lead near runway sites and surrounding communities, but that the levels found were “below federal and state standards.” He also mentioned that “ultrafine particles were significantly elevated near runways during aircraft operations.”
Jean Ospital, the health effects officer from SCAQMD, stressed that it is difficult to study the impacts of air pollution from the Airport because it is hard to “parse out pollutants that come from aircraft” and from the other sources of pollutants in the air.
Airport neighbors also gave input. Several discussed the fact that they or their pets were diagnosed with cancer, and they wondered if that diagnosis was related to living near the Airport. Martin Elery, who used to live about “1,000 feet from the runway,” stated that he “moved to the Valley specifically to make sure my 1-year-old son isn’t exposed to the fumes on a daily basis.”