Could larger airplanes and more flights result in unsafe air quality conditions near Green Airport and especially at the Winslow Park playing fields not far from the airport’s longest runway that will be even longer by the end of this year?
Although air quality testing, as mandated by legislation, hasn’t shown unsafe levels of a number of pollutants, Rep. Joseph McNamara and Attorney General Peter Kilmartin want to see the testing continue after it is due to expire this July 31. The Rhode Island Airport Corporation considers the monitoring an unnecessary expense since testing over the past three years has proven airport operations aren’t dangerously affecting air quality.
McNamara said air quality testing has cost the Rhode Island Airport Corporation in excess of $1 million.
Now is not the time to slacken vigilance even with a reduction in the number of elements being tested, says Kilmartin.
“So far it’s been good, but we’re going to have a lot more flights,” Kilmartin said in an interview Friday.
In particular, he noted the recent announcement that Norwegian Airports would initiate flights this June and July to Ireland, Scotland and Norway. As a result, Green would see 36 more flights departing and arriving weekly. The airline will be using 737 Max Boeing aircraft. Also beginning this summer, Vacation Express will start direct service to Cancun.
RIAC President and CEO Iftikhar Ahmad is looking to further grow Green services and, at a recent appearance at the Rotary Club of Warwick, said additional service announcements could be forthcoming. He also said the airline industry is turning away from smaller regional jets to bigger aircraft because of operational costs.
Kilmartin said he is sensitive to the economic impact of the airport and how important it is to the state’s economy, adding that he wants to ensure “there is no overly adverse impacts.”
In an April 12 letter to McNamara, who chairs the Committee on Health Education and Welfare, Kilmartin writes he cannot support legislation that would remove elements from the data collection requirements of the air monitoring.
“While there currently may be very good reasons to eliminate some of the mandatory testing requirements, I believe that decision is short-sighted and fails to appreciate that we have no real knowledge of how the runway expansion will affect air quality of the levels of the current testing requirements,” he writes.
In an email, Mayor Scott Avedisian said Monday, “I have publicly supported the compromise that RIAC has suggested that would reduce the amount of air testing in the future and allow RIAC to use that money for other improvements in the city.”
Patti Goldstein, spokeswoman for RIAC, said Monday, “RIAC has expressed some concerns to the bill sponsors in meetings at the State House. We will continue to work with the sponsors and monitor this legislation.”
McNamara said he sought to broker a consensus between RIAC and the attorney general to reduce the number of elements tested. McNamara said RIAC wanted the bill with reduced levels of testing to stay. With RIAC refusing to bend, McNamara said he now agrees with Kilmartin to reinstate testing for all the elements.
McNamara also feels “we are entering a critical period” with the anticipated increase in flights as well as the longer runway.
“I believe the City of Warwick is a good host [to the airport] and they have a responsibility to the city,” he said.
McNamara favors extending the testing requirements for another two years, but not longer.
“Technological changes are happening so quickly,” he said explaining for the need to require testing requirements periodically. He said legislation that would have taken off certain elements from the required testing list has been held and will “be amended to put those chemicals back in.”