Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is waiting for final approval of its expansion plans, but some residents in surrounding communities continue to worry that more room for planes will mean less peace of mind for them. 90.3's Janet Babin reports.
Janet Babin- Residents who live near Cleveland Hopkins say the biggest problem is the noise. Apparently, new residents don't understand just how invasive the sound will be. Kevin Tolley moved in to his Fairview Avenue home three summers ago. He describes one of his first nights in his new house.
Kevin Tolley- I thought it was World War III. All this noise, then I look out my door and see all the burners, I'm like, oh yea, the air show, that's what that is.
JB- Tolley soon became used to the Cleveland Labor Day Air show tradition. While it's not the Blue Angels air show everyday, Tolley says there are times when the noise becomes unbearable. He and other residents are concerned that the airport expansion plan will only increase their troubles.
Balancing the concerns of residents and growth at airports is a national problem. The U.S. Accounting Office estimates that 2,000 airports around the country are undergoing some kind of expansion plan. But jet noise isn't a new issue. NASA Glenn Research Center's been working on it for decades.
For most of this decade, Dennis Huff has been Chief of the Acoustic Branch at NASA Glenn Research Center. He says his team's been able to reduce fan and jet noise by about 3 dB, a small but significant amount
Dennis Huff- It's barely audible - the sound reduction would be comparable to having two engines, then turning one of them off.
JB- This year, NASA's John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field embarked on a 5-year, $100 million quiet aircraft technology program. The funding came from the Federal Government.
Huff and his colleagues are working on a method that actually makes more noise -- or, anti-noise.
DH- What we're trying to do with active noise control is to cancel out the noise from jet engines, or at least cancel that noise out.
JB- Huff admits that reducing engine noise will take decades to evolve, but he says the NASA team is making progress.
DH- There's definitely been an improvement since the 1950's and 1960's.
JB- A less noticeable but real consequence of living near an airport is the proximity of water and air pollution. Jack Saporito is with U.S. Citizen Aviation Watch based in the Chicago area. The organization represents about one and a half million people in the US who live near airports, including Olmstead Falls residents.
Jack Saporito- Airports generate water and air pollution, and exotic pollution.
JB- Saporito says airports don't co-exist very well with urban residential areas.
JS- Instead of expanding airports and increasing flights, the country should be working to reduce them and building airports outside of urban areas.
JB- U.S. Citizen Aviation Watch recently completed a study of air quality surrounding Chicago's O'Hare airport, called the O'Hare Airport Toxic Air Study. The paper states that unacceptable cancer risks caused by toxic air emissions from O'Hare Airport operations affect 98 Illinois communities in a 32-mile radius of the airport, including Chicago proper. Saporito expects similar results would be found near any mayor airport in the country, including Cleveland's.
According to the Cleveland Hopkins Final Environmental Impact Statement for expansion, there would be a slight increase in air emissions due to the greater taxi distance from the gate to the new runway -- that translates to a yearly increase of 18 tons of carbon monoxide, more than four tons of hydrocarbons and .35 tons of sulfur dioxide. Olmstead Falls Mayor Bob Blomquist says his experts say those numbers could be higher and would exceed national air quality standards.
Bob Blomquist- Air quality is a big issue, and we feel they're not in compliance, and it will be a big part of our evaluation.
JB- But Mayor Mike White disagrees; he says pollution from the Hopkins expansion won't be of any consequence.
Mike White- There will be more planes, but there will be quieter, safer, and more efficient planes.
JB- Olmstead Falls is challenging the Federal Aviation Administration's approval of the Hopkins Expansion -- the FAA is expected to respond to the challenge by the end of the week. In Cleveland, Janet Babin, 90.3 WCPN, 90.3 FM.