Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport has hired a consultant to study lead levels in the air, following calls from residents across the fence who cited a Sun Sentinel investigation which found that South Florida’s smaller airports top the country in emissions of the toxin.
The investigation revealed that the city-owned airport currently ranks 18th in the nation for lead emissions out of over 5,500 airports, according to 2020 calculations from the Environmental Protection Agency, behind county-owned Miami Executive and North Perry, which rank 11th and fifth, respectively.
The study should be finished in a matter of weeks, Arlene Borenstein, a spokesperson for the airport, told the Sun Sentinel on Friday, and will measure lead in the air “using the same ratios the EPA did” in previous studies of lead emissions at airports. It will not look at soil.
The main purpose of the study is to “reiterate the fact that all is okay,” Borenstein said.
She could not immediately provide further details on how the lead measurements will be taken.
The EPA previously calculated lead emissions at the nation’s airports using data about the number of flight operations and the type of aircraft at the airports. Small piston-engine planes, which mostly run on leaded fuel, emit the toxin into the air. The actual amount of lead in the air has not been studied at South Florida’s airports.
Residents surrounding North Perry Airport in Pembroke Pines are still waiting for Broward County, which owns and operates the airport, to study lead emissions there. Pembroke Pines commissioners passed a resolution in August asking the county to do a study as soon as possible. Miramar followed suit in September.
At a homeowner’s association meeting in July, residents of the Lofts at Palm Aire Village, a community separated from the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport grounds by a fence, had asked Mayor Dean Trantalis and other city officials to study the air and soil at the airport.
At the time, Trantalis said he hadn’t heard about the issue before. Later, he told the Sun Sentinel that he was planning to bring together “department heads that were involved” and “take a step forward.”
After that meeting, Michael Ray, a resident of the Lofts at Palm Aire, emailed Fort Lauderdale city officials a resolution from the homeowners association asking for a study of lead in the neighborhoods around the airport. They told him that Trantalis had asked to have the item come before the commission at an upcoming meeting.
When Ray asked when the item would be heard, city officials forwarded him an email from Rufus James, the manager of Fort Lauderdale Executive, saying that airport staff “have contracted with a consultant who is performing a Study and will prepare a report of the findings” and will “share the report with the community once it’s completed.”
It remains unclear when, or if, the original resolution will come before the commission.