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Van Nuys, Long Beach airports cited as major lead polluters

May 10, 2011 |  2:27 pm


The Center for Environmental Health on Tuesday announced impending legal action against more than 40 suppliers of aviation fuel containing lead, often used in piston-powered aircraft engines, at California airports.

The Oakland-based group blames ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell, AvFuel Corp. and 38 other suppliers for water and air pollution around 25 airports in California, including Van Nuys Airport, Long Beach/Daugherty Field and LAX.

“The oil and aviation industries need to know Californians will not tolerate lead pollution that threatens our health and healthy environments,” Michael Green, executive director of CEH, said in a statement. “We expect the industries to take immediate action to eliminate pollution that endangers children and families who live, work and play near airports across the state.”

Van Nuys, which handles a lot of civil aviation using piston-engine aircraft, had the highest levels of lead emissions among 3,413 airports nationwide, according to EPA.

Most of the lead pollution highlighted by the agency and the environmental group is airborne, although facilities at seven airports have polluted local groundwater, according to the group.

The EPA is in the process of establishing regulations governing leaded aviation fuel, or avgas, in response to a petition from Friends of the Earth. The General Aviation Avgas Coalition has been working on a "very low lead"-grade fuel that would reduce lead content by about 20% over the commonly used fuel.

Tuesday's action alleges violations of the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, and serves notice that the group plans to file a lawsuit within 60 days, a requirement under Proposition 65.


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-- Geoff Mohan

Photo: Many civilian aircraft, such as these at Van Nuys Airport, rely on leaded fuel. Credit: Carlos Chave /Los Angeles Times