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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Study uncovers harmful air around Teterboro Airport

BY MARK MUELLER
Star-Ledger Staff

A long-awaited study on air quality around Teterboro Airport has found elevated levels of harmful particulates and other compounds, some of which are commonly found in jet fuel.

Concentrations of known or suspected carcinogens such as formaldehyde, toluene and ethylbenzene were four times higher than at other monitoring stations operated by the state Department of Environmental Protection, the study found.

"The concentrations of the compounds consistently detected at Teterboro Airport are associated with total cancer risks that are up to five times higher at parts of Teterboro Airport than the other NJDEP locations," a report on the study said.

The report stresses that the compounds cannot be definitively linked to the Bergen County airport's operations, but the study is likely to be used by the airport's foes in their quest to drastically reduce the number of flights.

The 827-acre airport, straddling Teterboro and Moonachie, has grown into one of the busiest general-aviation airports in the nation, with more than 200,000 arrivals and departures each year.

Residents in neighboring communities have long complained the airport is too busy for the densely populated area. At the same time, they have expressed concern about the health effects of having the airport as a neighbor.

The Coalition for Public Health and Safety, which draws members from a dozen surrounding towns, initially asked for an air quality study more than a decade ago, ultimately filing suit to force the issue.

The $450,000 study -- conducted by Environ, an Arlington, Va., consulting firm -- was paid for by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, and the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.

The findings were released at a public meeting last night in East Rutherford.

Four monitoring stations were installed near the airport's fenceline to test air quality.

Of all the compounds consistently detected, formaldehyde, which is found in jet fuel, is among the greatest concerns, the report found, accounting for more than 75 percent of the health risks associated with the various compounds.

The study found that pollution was worst in the summer months and exceeded health benchmarks, adding that the compounds also typically exceeded benchmarks in the state's urban areas.

The report calls for further study, saying the compounds cannot be tied directly to the airport. For instance, while the air quality monitors detected some spikes when planes lined up on the airport's two runways awaiting takeoff, other spikes were detected when winds blew in from busy Route 46.

"Teterboro is one contributing factor, but so are a number of other factors, and the study can't point to a cause of the levels," Steve Sigmund, a Port Authority spokesman, said last night.

He added that a second study conducted by the Meadowlands Commission found lower levels of the compounds in the community outside the airport property.