OAW Challenges Hillsboro Airport Third Runway

April 29, 2014

Hillsboro, OR – On April 21, 2014 at the request of Oregon Aviation Watch and 5 individuals – Patrick Conry, Blaine Ackley, Jim Lubischer, David Barnes and Michelle Barnes – Attorney Sean Malone filed a Notice of Intent to Appeal a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pertaining to the highly controversial proposal to construct a third runway at the Hillsboro Airport (HIO). The FONSI determination – that adding a third runway at HIO will have no significant impact on the environment – clears the way for the project to move forward. It has been on hold since 2011, when the US Ninth Circuit Court remanded an earlier FONSI, asserting that the FAA and the Port of Portland had failed to fully consider the potential environmental impacts of this proposed expansion.

HIO is located in Washington County, the second most populated county in Oregon. It is surrounded on three sides by residential communities and on the fourth by fertile farmland.

The majority of flights at this airport are conducted by a private flight training school on behalf of student pilots, many of whom are recruited from around the globe. Students who train at HIO engage in local “touch and go” training maneuvers involving repetitive flying below 2,000 feet within 4 to 5 miles of the airport. “The frequent noise from low flying aircraft over my home is destroying my ability to enjoy my property,” said Patrick Conry, Oregon Aviation Watch (OAW) board member and Hillsboro resident who lives a mile from the airport. “Health and property values are also concerns. Several years ago I was diagnosed with a type of leukemia that, according to my doctor, could be related to the benzene in aircraft fuel.”

In addition, Oregon Aviation Watch disputes the FAA's finding on lead emissions. More than 50 percent of airborne lead in the U.S. is emitted by general aviation aircraft. In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranked HIO 21st nationwide among nearly 20,000 airports in lead emissions based on estimates that 0.68 tons of lead were emitted by HIO operations that year. Oregon Aviation Watch contends that constructing a third runway at HIO will nearly double the capacity of this airport and as a result has the potential to double lead emissions as well.

Lead is a neurotoxin. It was removed from automotive fuel and paint years ago due to its pernicious effect on human health. Yet despite extensive documentation on the link between lead and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD), diminished IQs, learning problems, miscarriages, increased violence, cardiovascular disease, kidney ailments, dementia, and a host of other health effects, lead is still allowed in piston-engine aircraft fuel.

Oregon Aviation Watch believes that increasing lead pollution over this area is significant and strongly disagrees with the FAA's conclusion that “there would be no significant risks to children's health and welfare” unless the additional runway generated more than 25 (twenty-five) tons of lead pollution – per year! In fact, rather than increasing lead emissions by adding another runway, Oregon Aviation Watch believes that local jurisdictions and municipalities should take measures to decrease lead pollution from HIO.

According to Dr. James Lubischer, a local pediatrician and vice-president of Oregon Aviation Watch, “The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has made it very clear that there is no safe level of lead in a child's blood and the CDC recommends primary prevention by eliminating all nonessential uses of lead.” Dr. Lubischer also states, “Not taking steps to eliminate this potent neurotoxin from the air of Washington County is unconscionable.”

Hillsboro resident Blaine Ackley, University of Portland Emeritus Professor of Education and Oregon Aviation Watch board member, expressed concerns about the impact of lead emissions on Hillsboro school children. “Nearly 16 percent, 3,204 of the 20,723 school children in Hillsboro live with within 2.5 miles of the Hillsboro Airport. These children are routinely exposed to lead and other toxins from the Hillsboro Airport.”

The EPA's 2011 National Emissions Inventory (NEI) reveals that noise, benzene, and lead are not the only pollutants generated by this airport. In addition to being the largest facility source of lead in Oregon, HIO is also a major emitter of a number of other air toxics, some of which are known to be 120 times above benchmark levels in Hillsboro and the surrounding area. For instance, HIO is the number one facility source in Washington County of acrolein, 1,3 butadiene, ethyl benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, organic carbon particulate matter 2.5, elemental carbon particulate matter 2.5, and carbon monoxide. It is the is second largest source of nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter 2.5 emissions and the third largest source of volatile organic compounds in this jurisdiction.

Over the past 84 years HIO has grown from a grassy airstrip to the largest general aviation airport in the state. Student and recreational pilots along with corporate jets now dominate the skies over much of the area both in Hillsboro as well as in designated training areas within 20 miles of the airport. The Port of Portland assumed ownership of the facility 48 years ago, yet over the course of that time has never taken a “hard look” at the environmental impact by completing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Despite claims that the Hillsboro Airport is an economic asset to the community, the Port openly admits that this airport has never generated a profit. As a result, the Port relies on public money to keep the Hillsboro Airport afloat on behalf of the private businesses located there.

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For further information regarding this appeal, including a link to the FAA Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), see OAW Prepares to Appeal: FAA Finding of No Significant Impact on Hillsboro Airport Third Runway Proposal.

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