Westminster Mayor Nancy McNally directed city staff to explore the possibilities for testing lead around the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport.
“I was standing (at the runway) when a …
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“I was standing (at the runway) when a plane came to land, and I thought it was bad living on 108th and Sheridan Green,” she said during the council's Aug. 15 meeting. “That was worse. I know what they are talking about and it’s real.”
The action comes as the airport dropped 580 pounds of lead in 2017 and 35 healthcare professionals sent a petition demanding action from Jefferson County.
The conversation regarding airplanes at RMMA using lead fuel started after Airport Director Paul Anslow gave councilors a presentation regarding the details and logistics of the airport and the airport noise roundtable.
Westminster left the roundtable in June, which triggered the discussion.
McNally said that residents from Green Knolls, the neighborhood near the airport, continue to ask her questions regarding the leaded fuel from the piston engine airplanes.
“We need an answer for them,” she said. “Is there or isn’t there, because if there isn’t and we can do a soil sample, at least they know it isn’t contaminated.”
McNally asked about the legality of the city going onto airport property and conducting the tests. Anslow said he would need to contact RMMA’s attorney and the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA call most of the shots when it comes to decisions around RMMA, due to acceptance of airport improvement grants for the airport.
“What I would pledge to you, ma'am and all the council members, I would do everything in my power to say yes, but I have bosses, I have requirements, so they may say no,” he said.
City Councilor Obi Ezeadi asked Anslow what the plan for the lead is.
Anslow said the best way forward is for the federal government to find alternatives and offer incentives for different fuels.
He said the airport has looked into offering alternative fuel, but less than 20 aircraft at the airport can use that approved fuel. The airport had 201,426 operations in 2021.
“No pilot is knowingly going to put fuel in his plane that will cause a safety issue,” he said.
Anslow said that not enough pilots ask for unleaded fuel for the airport to be able to make that switch. However, he said companies have been looking to create alternatives for 20 years and only three have been approved. He expects more approvals will be expedited and it could be a matter of one-to-five years until they become profitable.
Ezeadi also asked if the airport ever initiated a study regarding lead. Anslow said it’s not in the airport’s purview and they do not have the funds.
“Even if that study were completed, what are the results of it? At this point in time, nothing is going to change until we get the FAA to approve the alternative fuels,” Anslow said. “The FAA is working on it, these companies are working on it, public health is working on it, the federal government is working on it.”
Rejoining the roundtable
After the presentation, Westminster is poised to rejoin the roundtable. They initially left due to a lack of action in addressing noise complaints and environmental concerns.
“If we can lower the temperature in terms of what people are complaining about with the flight schools, all of us will have much happier constituents,” Superior Mayor Mark Lacis and member of RMMA’s noise roundtable.
Lacis’ pitch to Westminster councilors to rejoin stemmed from regional municipalities working together to address the issues.
“Any of these solutions need to have the buy-in from the all members and all the members need to be from the surrounding community,” he said. “I’m concerned if the FAA sees a glaring hole in the puzzle, being Westminster not in the roundtable, we may not get the FAA to buy in.”
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