HFAC Focused on Environmental Issues in April

Hanscom Field Advisory Commission (HFAC) Chair Christopher Eliot drew special attention to environmental issues during the April 21 meeting with Massport: “Tomorrow is Earth Day. So this is the perfect time to be talking about sustainability. Preserving resources of the planet Earth for future generations is the most important challenge of our time.”

Massport Sustainability Initiatives

“In previous meetings, we’ve talked about air quality and resource water resources, which are pieces of sustainable management. The final chapter of the ESPR (Massport 2017 Environmental Status and Planning Report) provides an overall view of sustainability efforts at Hanscom Field.”

He went on to review key points in the ESPR chapter on sustainability and environmental management about Massport policy such as:

  • Encouraging sustainable practices in its general operating and development philosophy;
  • Requesting development projects greater than 20,000 square feet in size try to meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification requirements or above;
  • Adding two electric vehicles to its Hanscom Field fleet;
  • Installing 222 solar panels with a 51-kilowatt generating capacity on the Civil Air Terminal.

“Naturally, HFAC meetings focus on regional concerns and there are a lot of criticisms of Massport activities.  I think it is important to recognize their positive efforts in sustainable management while encouraging further efforts,” Eliot summed up.

Barbara Katzenberg, a new HFAC member representing the town of Lexington, asked if the ESPR estimate that solar arrays power 4% of the Civil Air Terminal building’s needs is still accurate, or if the percentage might have increased since publication of the report.

Mark Wimmer, Massport airport data specialist, answered he believes the number is still accurate. Katzenberg noted that the Boston MedFlight building seems to have most of its power needs met by its own grid-tied solar array.

Eliot suggested, “In any case, if it’s only 4%, there’s room for an increase.  And this is something that’s actually profitable to do in the long run.”  He added, “There’s a short-term outlay of money, but in the long run the money gets paid back.”

He also urged Massport to consider adding solar array canopies on its large Hanscom Field car park areas in the future.

When Emily Mitchell, HFAC and Bedford Select Board member, inquired about the electric charging stations planned for the Terminal parking lot, Wimmer explained, “They were actually going to be installed last year, but the capital programs budget has been drastically reduced and changed due to the COVID pandemic. I think the charging stations have been postponed at this point in time.”

Margaret Coppe, HFAC member and South Lexington Civic Association member, asked Wimmer about progress Rectrix (one of the three fixed-base operators at Hanscom Field) has made towards meeting Silver LEEDS certification, and Wimmer agreed to ask for an update before the next HFAC meeting.

Aviation and Air and Water Quality

Mitchell added that in addition to sustainability, it is important to recall other environmental issues such as aircraft exhaust emissions and stormwater run-off from the airfield into the Shawsheen River.

She mentioned, in particular, the ESPR reference to Massport’s “collaborations with MassDEP and the Air Force about the Shawsheen River watershed and how the agencies have assessed current impacts of stormwater through modeling of discharges in the drainage area.”

“I know that we had some discussions about modeling versus sampling. So if we’re making a list of things that we would like to see covered or explored in the next ESPR, I think some additional sampling, particularly of stormwater would be a good thing to add to that list.”

“My other big question,” Mitchell continued, “which would presumably be answered in the next ESPR, has to do with the State Climate Bill that was just enacted and the governor just signed, which includes things like five-year emission reduction goals in transportation.  How is that likely to affect environmental management at Hanscom Field?  I don’t think anybody has an answer to that question, but I assume it’s on Massport’s radar.  I’m hopeful that we’ll see some substantive positive change as a result of that law,” Mitchell concluded.

Environmentally-friendly Aviation Fuel and Electric Aircraft

Eliot suggested that potential solutions for pollution and air noise from aviation activities may lie in ongoing research and experimentation with alternative fuel and power sources for aircraft.  He gave a brief overview of MIT’s bio-aviation fuel project, Seattle-based MagniX’s eCaravan electric plane, Israeli firm Eviation’s Alice electric passenger plane, Volkswagen’s SkyDrive flying car, and Slovenian-based Pipistrel Aircraft’s electric two-seater aircraft.

“I believe we should advocate for fast development of electric aircraft.  This technology promises to be much quieter than piston or jet aircraft, eliminate all harmful emissions including lead and greenhouse gases, and ultimately make aviation cheaper.  If flights under 1,000 miles use electric planes and longer jet flights use a biofuel kerosene variant, there would be no further need for fossil fuels for the aviation industry and complete elimination of lead pollution from piston-engine aircraft.”

Massport Says Airfield Soil Lead Testing Not Required

In March Eliot asked Massport to sample airfield soil near runway ends and engine run-up areas, to analyze for lead concentrations.

He hoped such testing could help alleviate some residents’ concerns about potential airfield neighborhood soil contamination due to leaded avgas emissions from the thousands of piston-engine aircraft flight operations taking place monthly at Hanscom Field.

The issue was raised by Concord residents last fall and has drawn continued scrutiny by HFAC since then.

Amber Goodspeed, Massport airport administrative manager for Hanscom Field, explained to commission members that Massport already tests “for everything that’s required per state and federal regulations, but because that [lead] is not something that’s required, we will not be doing that.”

Emily Mitchell, HFAC and Bedford Select Board member, asked, “Would another entity be allowed to test on Massport property?  Like a town?”

Goodspeed said she would ask about that possibility.

Margaret Coppe, HFAC and South Lexington Civic Association member, pointed out that there is nothing to stop airfield neighborhood residents from testing soil for lead concentrations on their own property.  She added, “They could do that and then send the report to us.”

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