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Airports and Their Effects on the Environment
Airports are a necessary part of today's fast-paced global environment. It goes without saying that our world would certainly be a different place without them. Millions depend on them every day to get them to their destinations. However, airports have many negative effects as well, especially to the local environment. Airports are a source of smog, contaminate waterways, contribute to global warming through the emission of greenhouse gases, and generate significant amounts of noise pollution (NADC, 1996).
According to the National Airport Defense Council, many airports rank among the top 10 pollution sources in the city where they are located. Although, airport pollution only contributes about 1% of total smog-forming gases in the United States, these numbers will continue to grow as the need for travel increases (NADC, 1996). This is the issue the Federal Aviation Administration and other government agencies must work together to try to solve. To this date, several guidelines and procedures have been developed to tackle this issue. This report will examine the current guidelines and issues facing airports and the relation to their local environments.
Conducting an Environmental Impact Study
Chapter 8 of FAA Publication APP-600 recommends a standard format, which should be used for all Airports Program environmental impact statements. Aside from setting down a standard form for these reports, this publication also sets down specific guidelines, which should be followed. The environmental impact statement must include any findings, mitigation plans, or monitoring which shall be done. In addition it will identify environmentally friendly alternatives to those being proposed. It must include the FAA's preferred alternative as well as the reasons for this choice. The reason for this ruling is in order to keep the reports and meetings focused and to assure that all issues are addressed in a proper manner. Factors, which are to be considered when deciding on an action, include looking at issues of safety, policy, environmental, social, or economic consequences. Under the Airport Improvement Program, the FAA shall take no actions, which have an adverse effect (FAA, APP-600).
In cases where a wetland is involved, there must be no practical alternative for a construction activity to proceed. All alternatives are to be compared for both the long and short-term effects of the proposed action. Any special consultation as in the Endangered Species Act Amendments, National Historic Preservation Act, or the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act will be considered. Several elements must be examined prior to construction approval. Noise must be analyzed for "Time above threshold." The proposed action must not have an adverse effect on hearing, communication, or sleep. It must be evaluated for both indoors and outdoors effects. Mitigation techniques for sensitive areas include noise abatement procedures and land acquisition (FAA, APP-600).
Paragraph 47, subpart e, paragraph 5 sets the standards for assessing the effects of the proposed construction on air quality. If the proposed construction will cause carbon monoxide levels in excess of current standards, studies must be conducted to determine emission concentrations in various areas.
The effects on water quality must be explored, according to Paragraph 47, subpart f, paragraph 1. When threshold limits are exceeded, the affected agencies will be consulted to determine mitigation and analysis procedures. The analysis required will be determined by the agency affected in each case.
The proposed construction project must not conflict with the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as it is currently amended. Both the consulting firm and the FAA must agree that there is no significant impact on the community. The same applies to the Archeological and Historic Preservation Act of 1974. The FAA must notify the National Park Service so that proper measures can be taken to ensure proper collection and preservation of resources (FAA, APP-600).
Adverse effects on the biotic communities will be assessed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, state or local wildlife agencies. The study of the effects on wildlife would identify the significance of the removal of various habitats. It would include a summary of the importance of flora and fauna inhabiting the area, the range of species present and the location of nesting and breeding areas. Noise, air quality, and water studies may have an impact on the local wildlife and these impacts must be considered as well and the direct effect of the removal of habitat (FAA, APP-600).
The impacts on endangered and threatened species must be determined. The proposed construction must then comply with applicable sections of the Endangered Species Act. If it is determined that the action will have a significant impact on threatened or endangered species, the National Wildlife Service will recommend another alternative. If another alternative cannot be reached, the FAA will examine any previously unconsidered mitigation measures or project modifications which would lessen the impacts so as not to jeopardize species or destroy or modify critical habitat (FAA, APP-600).
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, Corps. Of Engineers, and the EPA will be consulted when a project is found to have a significant impact on a wetland area. If the area involved in construction involves a wetland area, the following effect will be considered:
public health, safety, and welfare including water supply, quality, recharge and discharge; pollution; flood and storm hazards; and sediment and erosion; maintenance of natural systems, including conservation and long-term productivity of existing flora and fauna, species and habitat diversity and stability, hydrologic utility, fish, wildlife, timber, and food and fiber resources; other uses of wetlands in the public interest, including recreational, scientific, and cultural uses" (FAA, APP-600, Paragraph 47, subpart e, paragraph 11).
The impact on floodplains, coastal zone management program, and coastal barriers, wild and scenic rivers, farmland, energy supply and natural resources, light emissions (annoyance of airport lighting), solid waste impacts, and the general effects of construction are also treated in a similar manner (FAA, APP-600, Paragraph 47, subparts f-s). The environmental impact statement will also take into consideration design and architectural also are considered with in the scope of the environmental impact statement (FAA, APP-600).
Under the guidelines set forth by the FAA concerning construction sometimes produce short-term effects which cannot be avoided. These short-term effects will be weighed against long-term losses or gains. FAA Publication APP-600 is the main document concerning the environmental impact of airports on a location. It attempts to address all areas as far as an airport is concerned. The specific details of each section are much more detailed than presented in this paper. The entire publication contains over 100 pages. It also addresses procedures such as the requirement to inform the public and hold a public meeting on the issue, appeals procedures and assessment issues. There are many other acts and provisions, which must be adhered to, in this process, only the major ones have been presented in this paper.
The United Stated Environmental Protection Agency is the primary government entity responsible for ensuring a safe water supply, both for humans and wildlife. Many airport activities can have an adverse effect on the safety of the water supply of a local area. The Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water set standards with which all airports must comply in all activities. The Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water is divided into three divisions, Priority Rulemaking, Regulatory Infrastructure, and Information. The Rulemaking division has several areas of concern in assessing water condition. They consider levels of arsenic, lead, copper, microbial and disaffection by-products, radionuclides, radon, and has unregulated water contaminants. The other two divisions are primarily responsible for analytical methods, enforcement and information dissemination (USEPA, (www.epa.gov/safewater/standards.html).
Drinking water contaminants are divided into the following categories: microorganisms, disinfectants and disinfection by-products, inorganic chemicals, organic chemicals and radionuclides. The EPA has established safe levels for these contaminants based on concentration and length of exposure time. Contaminants are measured in micrograms of contaminant per liter of water (mg/L). Several contaminants are not allowed to be present in drinking water in any amount. These include cryptosporidium, Giardia lamblia, Coliforms, and Legionella (Legionarie's disease). Disinfectant products and by-products include bromates, chlorine, haloacetic acid and trihalomethanes. Inorganic contaminants include heavy metals, minerals such as flourite, nitrates, nitrites, asbestos, free cyanide, and mercury. The only inorganic contaminants, which should never be present in drinking water at any level, are lead and arsenic. Organic compounds include benzene compounds, dichloroethane, xylene, styrene, and toluene, to name a few. There are many organic compounds, which are never allowed in drinking water at any level. Many organic compounds are harmful at extremely low levels. Radionucleides such as Alpha particles, Beta Particles, Radium 226 or 228, and Uranium are never allowed in drinking water in any amount. The primary regulated compounds, which are of greatest concern to airports, are the disinfectant category, and organic compounds such as are used in de-icers, and fluids used in airplane maintenance. Remediation methods for these substances are primarily limited to safe usage and disposal methods. (USEPA, (w www.epa.gov/safewater/standards.html).
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