It was a packed house at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport’s noise roundtable meeting on Feb. 13, with leaded fuel, noise and lack of action at the top of the public’s concerns.
Now, add harassment to those concerns. In fact, a man was sent a picture of a gun.
“A member in our community spoke out on Facebook about the airport and was texted an anonymous video of a gun,” said Laurie Chin Sayres during the meeting’s public comment. “Please take this seriously, this is real, this is someone’s life.”
Chin Sayres also explained she appeared on a TV news segment and woke up to hate mail the next day.
Boulder County Commissioner Ashley Stolzmann, who was voted the vice chair of the CNR at the meeting, suggested the group put out a joint letter saying harassment against anyone isn’t okay and that it would be turned over to the sheriff’s office.
Broomfield City Council Member Deven Shaff and Jefferson County Commissioner Tracy Kraft-Tharp agreed.
Frustrated by lack of progress
Many residents voiced their frustration with a lack of progress from the CNR on tackling the issues.
“What is actually being accomplished here at this Community Noise Roundtable? From what I see, the public makes a comment and it moves onto the agenda and we need people to actually collect real data,” said Superior resident Noelle Roni.
Roni said nine residents privately tested their houses for lead and 18 samples came back positive. She said one of the windows of her child’s room tested positive.
Those residents are calling for a comprehensive lead study of their community. Previously, a group of doctors sent Jefferson County Commissioners a letter and petition asking for action on leaded fuels.
According to Gabi Johnson, a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, they are conducting their own investigation into whether there is a measurable relationship between proximity to an airport and increased blood lead levels.
“This analysis will look at all blood lead tests reported to CDPHE from children ages 18 years and younger who lived within 5 miles of a regional airport (76 commercial and 4 military airports within Colorado) between 2011 and 2020. Along with the blood lead test data, we are examining wind data to identify whether the child lived downwind of the nearest airport during the 60 days prior to the test date,” she wrote in an email.
Johnson said the analysis is similar to a study done in 2021 of children living near an airport in Santa Clara County, California. She noted understanding all potential sources of lead exposure is important.
“Living near an airport is one of those potential sources. As with all potential sources of lead exposure, we encourage people who live near regional airports to ask their health care provider or community clinic about getting a blood lead test for their children,” she wrote.
Previously, Jefferson County Public Health said if residents around the airport started testing for lead and levels were high, it would trigger a response from the county and state department.
“If the folks in that vicinity of the airport were to have their child's blood lead levels tested, we could do follow up work through our communicable disease group. If there's multiple people showing elevated blood lead levels, in that case, the State Health Department's environmental epidemiology group would likely be involved,” Jim Rada, director of environmental health services at Jefferson County Public Health, previously said.
Kristy Richardson, state toxicologist, previously said CDPHE has a surveillance system that alerts them if there are elevated blood lead levels in an area. If spatial patterns started to exist, CDPHE would work with local public health partners to understand the exposure and provide help.
Representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration were also present at the meeting to answer questions from CNR members. Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper and Representative Neguse urged the Federal Aviation Administration to send a representative to the CNR meetings in a Jan. 13 letter.
Westminster City Councilor Bruce Baker was up first.
“When do we talk about the lifespan of an airport in relation to the community?” he asked.
John Bauer, manager of the Office of Airports for the Denver office, said Jefferson County has accepted grant assurances and has certain contractual obligations. One of those is to maintain the airport as an operating airport.
“I heard somebody mention, ‘if we stop accepting FAA grants, therefore we can close the airport in 20 years’, that is not the case. In many airports, such as (RMMA,) they have purchased land using federal dollars, those grant assurances never expire, they run in perpetuity with the land,” he said.
He cited the former Stapleton airport and said it closed and was relocated because of capacity.
Stolzmann asked for the FAA to come to each meeting in the future. She also mentioned that coming to consensus on the CNR to make recommendations may be difficult.
Justin Biassou, community engagement officer for the FAA, said all members of the CNR have to agree.
“What feels hard from where I sit, is that we haven’t been at the table to decide these routes in existence today,” she said. “...so now to change it, you’re saying we have to get 100% consensus but we’ve not agreed to this in the first place.”
Superior Trustee Jason Serbu said while he knows the roundtable is for noise, lead is an issue for many people. He asked what the FAA’s plan is to work with the EPA to address the issue.
Leslie Lardie, a senior advisor for the FAA, pointed to their EAGLE initiative. That plan aims to eliminate the use of leaded aviation fuel by the end of 2030.
Members also voted to change the meeting days and time to the first Thursday of the month from 6-8 p.m.
As well, the CNR held an executive session regarding hiring a consultant.
Future agenda items include a noise study, a panel discussion with flight schools, pilots and air traffic control on noise mitigation strategies, aircraft landing fees, guest speakers and others.