Cutting the number of large aircraft that zoom in and out of the embattled may help reduce neighbors' exposure to toxins, researchers said Wednesday.
Prompted by cries from neighbors—some of whom live as close as 300 feet to the tarmac—tired of breathing "toxic soup" of jet exhaust, Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Redondo Beach) held a state Senate air quality panel Wednesday in West Los Angeles to recap years-old health and air quality-related research.
Lieu said he convened the Senate Select Committee on Air Quality to make a "major" point: There is overwhelming evidence of major health problems at the Santa Monica Airport.
The testimony from seven researchers will guide the Senate committee, which Lieu chairs, in exploring new legislation to reduce the negative health impacts on residents. The 2012 session of the Legislature begins in January, and the deadline for Lieu to introduce non-urgency bills is late February.
Several studies in the past few years have found that airport operations, including those at Santa Monica Airport and particularly jet takeoffs and landings, are contributing to elevated levels of black carbon and ultra fine particles in the area surrounding the airport.
Scientists said high levels of those toxins could lead to increased rates of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, reduced lung functions and carcinogenic risk for the residents living closest to Santa Monica Airport.
"It might be better to stay indoors when jets are taking off," Phil Fine, atmospheric measurements manager at the South Coast Air Quality Management District, told the 100 Venice, Mar Vista, Santa Monica and Marina del Rey residents in attendance at the Senate committee hearing.
Officials with the air quality district said Wednesday that, based on educated guesses, they recommend increasing the width of the blast fence on the tarmac, reducing hold times for all jet aircraft, redirecting the exhaust from aircraft in pre-flight and limiting traffic for large commuter plans weighing more than 41,000 pounds.
Studies such as the ones presented Wednesday have also pointed to the need to establish at least a minimum distance between homes and aircraft operations.
"That needs to be fixed," said , a Mar Vista resident who heads Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution. "Santa Monica Airport is an obvious problem. It's been looked at and looked at."
Rubin, fellow activists and
"There's no other solution than to find a way to close it altogether," said Mar Vista resident Virginia Ernst. "There's no other airport in the country... where planes abut against residential communities."
But to the disappointment of Santa Monica resident Michael Kent, none of the recommendations offered by the air quality district included mandating the use of synthetic or unleaded jet fuels.
"There are very positive things happening," Kent said of fuel research. "It's very disturbing that you're not looking at what's possible."
Kent called the hearing slanted, and asked that future hearings include testimony from the Federal Aviation Administration. He also refuted neighbors' complaints that the city of Santa Monica benefits from airport tax revenues, while Mar Vista and Venice residents are subjected to loud noises and pollution.
Those residents say lawmakers and the FAA should also consider changing flight patterns to redirect them over Santa Monica.
With 105,000 flight operations last year, Santa Monica Airport was the busiest single runway airport in the nation.
Air Quality and Health-Related Assessments:
- UCLA Airport Emission Impacts in Neighborhoods Adjacent to a General Aviation Airport in Southern California
- LAUSD Report on the Generation and Downwind Extent of Emissions Generated from Aircraft and Ground Support Operations
- UCLA Pediatrician Report—a Health-directed Summary of Issues Facing Community Near the Santa Monica Airport
- South Coast Air Quality Management District Update Final Report, April 2011