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South Metro Airport Action Council

Minneapolis, Minnesota


July 13, 2000: Water Board, City to Hold Public Meeting on MSP Airport Water Plan
By Dick Saunders
The City of Minneapolis and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) will hold a public meeting to review the latest proposal by the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) for lowering water tables during construction of at least five tunnels underneath Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The meeting is at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 13 at Roosevelt High School, 4029 28th Ave. S., Minneapolis.

The MAC initially proposed pumping at least two billion gallons of water around the site into the Minnesota River over 15 months especially to facilitate construction of a tunnel underneath a new north-south runway to relocated cargo center for FedEx and UPS. The MAC must apply for permits from the MCWD and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resouces (DNR).

One consultant for the Watershed District initially estimated upwards of five billion gallons might be needed, drawing down nearby lake levels in Minneapolis and Richfield by up to four feet and potentially impacting a water table affecting 28,000 homes. The estimate was subsequently revised downward.

However, numerous airport environmental groups, including SMAAC, and affected cities have raised objections to the dewatering process and have urged the MAC to explore other construction methods, including sheet pilings. A citizen group has also filed a petition with the state Environmental Quality Board seeking an environmental review of the dewatering project. The EQB develops and monitors environmental policy.

May 18, 2000: Noise Pollution Expert Shares Knowledge and Experience
By Dean Lindberg

"Do you wait twelve years - when children are displaying hypertension markers - to find out if there's any permanent damage?"

Chair of the Noise Pollution Committee of the New York City Council for the Environment, Dr. Arline Bronzaft posed the question at the spring membership meeting of the South Metro Airport Action Council (SMAAC) this May 18th. The answer of course; No.

Dr. Bronzaft used the question to illustrate a point - that FAA "standards" for community health, which demand proof of damages inflicted, differ significantly from the accepted medical practice of preventive care. Additionally, the agency used its clout to prevent research on noise and health impacts, instead of preventing the development of damaging noise levels around airports.

"The Federal government set up the Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC) to carry out a mandate that citizens should be protected from noise" Dr. Bronzaft explained. "When the government was in the noise control business in the 1960's and 70's, there was no question over whether noise had a negative impact on people. ONAC sent out brochures on the harmful effects of noise. Government officials did not say 'We need more studies' to document that noise harms us. But, when ONAC said 'noise harms us' it made the FAA uncomfortable. "So while government was moving in a direction to protect us, the way for industry to stop noise progress was to close down ONAC." Bronzaft noted, and suggested that what needs to be done now is figure out how to "get back to the 70's" - when the government considered noise a serious issue.

According to Dr. Bronzaft, part of that task will be to re-assemble and update the body of evidence the government once had. She summarized recent research on children done by Dr. Gary Evans of Cornell University which replicated studies done in the seventies. Dr. Evans documented increased hypertension markers in children living around the airport in Munich, Germany. In addition, reading levels in sixth graders have been found to be down by one year, and mathematics scores have slipped.

Dr. Bronzaft has mixed feelings concerning Evans' findings. While his research corroborates hers - adding to its credibility - Bronzaft is disheartened that some 25 years after her initial findings, the same levels of noise impact indicators are still being found.

One step toward getting "back to the 70's" has been made because of Dr. Bronzaft's lobbying efforts in Washington D.C. The recently passed FAA refunding bill contains a requirement that the Government Accounting Office (GAO) "Shall conduct a study on aircraft noise in the United States. The Controller General shall examine: (1) the selection of noise measurement methodologies used by the Administrator (2) the threshold of noise at which health begins to be affected (3) the effectiveness of noise abatement programs at airports located in the United States (4) the impacts of airport noise on communities, including schools (5) the noise assessment practices of the FAA and whether such facilities fairly and accurately reflect the burden of noise on communities." The GAO must complete this task and report the results to Congress within one year.

Support for the GAO study has been very strong according to Dr. Bronzaft who stated that to researchers, public demands for health investigation are "an affirmation that something is going on." Dr. Bronzaft urged SMAAC, Residents Opposed to Airport Racket (ROAR) and Citizens Concerned about Richfield's Environment (CARE) to continue their collaborative efforts, and press Minnesota Congress members to demand the GAO study be well executed, with the highest level of professional credibility. Bronzaft noted that well-intended legislative directives can fizzle without public support, and advised people to "Let your congress people know a study is going on. They do react, and are more likely to do a good job."

Following Dr. Bronzaft's presentation, several who expressed interest in starting a health research volunteer group met with SMAAC President Dick Saunders. Others interested can contact Saunders at: dsndrs@gateway.net or by phone (612) 869-1501.

November 15, 1999: Panel to Discuss Final Mac Tunnel Water Control Plan
Details of the final dewatering mitigation plan to be used during construction of cargo and light-rail transit tunnels at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport over the next four years will be presented at a Fall Forum of the South Metro Airport Action Council (SMAAC) at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15 at Mayflower Congregational Church, 103 E. Diamond Lake Road.

Panelists include Pam Blixt, president of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) board; Roger Hale, the mayor's appointee to the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), and Gary Warren, MAC engineer. They will review safeguards that have been developed to allay public concerns over possible subsurface and surface water losses and water quality problems during upcoming construction of Runway 17/35, LRT and Runway 4/22 tunnels. Former MCWD manager Jim Spensley will be moderator.

The forum is open to the public at no charge. For further information, contact SMAAC at 612/861-1061 or e-mail dsndrs@gateway.net.

Wednesday, May 12, 1999: Dr. Floyd O. Anderson, "The Health Effects of Noise"
Please contact SMAAC for more information.