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Group to File Suit Over Alleged Pollution from Aviation Fuel at Santa Barbara Airport, 24 Others

Oakland environmental organization says lead-contained fuel used by oil companies and suppliers violates California law

An Oakland-based environmental group alleges that major oil companies and suppliers of lead-contained aviation fuel have violated the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act with air pollution around the Santa Barbara Airport and 24 others in California.

The Center for Environmental Health notified ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, AvFuel Corp. and 38 suppliers that sales of that particular aviation fuel — or avgas — violate state law. The organization intends to file lawsuits to that effect — unless the companies warn people who live or work nearby, stop selling leaded aviation fuel in California, take remedial action to clean lead from the identified sources of drinking water and pay appropriate civil penalties.

Chevron Corp. is allegedly responsible for lead contamination up to 0.8 miles around Santa Barbara Airport because of the use of avgas, which emits lead pollution when aircraft take off and land.

Atlantic Aviation and Signature Flight Support are suppliers for the Santa Barbara Airport and are listed as defendants in the notices of violation. They did not return Noozhawk’s calls for comment.

Santa Barbara Airport Director Karen Ramsdell said the airport itself does not have to respond to the notices.

San Pedro Creek is identified in the document as a nearby source of drinking water, but the notice doesn’t imply whether it is contaminated. Ramsdell said the airport’s seasonal stormwater quality sampling shows no significant lead levels in its streams or bodies of water from the past seven years of data.

Testing by the Goleta Water District of the area’s groundwater wells and water from Lake Cachuma shows no significant levels, and any readable amounts are attributed to internal corrosion of household water plumbing systems.

The Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District monitors air quality, including lead and other pollutants, and daily updates are available through its website. There are state and federal standards for ozone and particulate matter levels, and those levels are occasionally exceeded at one or more county monitoring stations. Records show that there were 14 days in 2010 and five days so far this year that exceeded standards.

The violation notices include the 25 California airports that the Environmental Protection Agency identified as having the highest lead emissions in the state, according to CEH documents.

EPA records state that 20,000 airports in the United States use leaded avgas, which is used for smaller aircraft with piston engines, not jet fuel used by commercial planes.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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