Miramar city commissioners unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday night requesting that Broward County study lead emissions at North Perry Airport as soon as possible, the second of the three cities surrounding the airport to do so.
Pembroke Pines, the city where the airport is located, passed its own resolution last month.
The original resolution, proposed by Pembroke Pines Commissioner Tom Good, came after a South Florida Sun Sentinel investigation revealed that North Perry ranks fifth in the country for lead emissions based on calculations from the Environmental Protection Agency, but Broward County, which operates the airport, has never studied lead levels or air quality there or in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Miramar’s resolution, which Vice Mayor Yvette Colbourne proposed after speaking with Good, “strongly urges Broward County to fund, implement, and produce the findings of a comprehensive study of the air pollution levels, including lead concentration levels, present in and around the North Perry Airport and within the surrounding residential community.”
Broward County owns and operates North Perry, but the airport sits within the city limits of Pembroke Pines and borders Hollywood and Miramar. Residents in all three cities live directly across from the airport grounds. The small piston-engine planes that run on leaded fuel and emit the toxin into the air fly low over their homes.
Studies show that children living near general aviation airports like North Perry have higher levels of lead in their blood than those living further away.
“The cities of Pembroke Pines, Miramar and Hollywood all breathe North Perry Airport twenty-four-seven, three-sixty-five,” said George Koren, a Pembroke Pines resident and member of the North Perry Community Advisory Board, in a public comment Wednesday. “I’m here tonight to ask for your support on what could really be the concern of a lifetime.”
Koren has long questioned the air quality surrounding the airport and advocated for the county to study it.
Meanwhile, Hollywood, the third and final city bordering the airport, decided not to consider a similar resolution when Commissioner Kevin Biederman raised it at a meeting Wednesday. Good had also brought the issue to Biederman’s attention.
At the meeting, Commissioner Traci Callari said that she needed more information in order to make a decision.
“We’re creating more work and more problems, so I’d like to get more facts,” Callari said.
Mayor Josh Levy said that, since Broward County is already planning to include the study in its budget, passing a resolution wouldn’t be necessary.
“I don’t think we need to be too activist with doing something when we already know they have it budgeted,” he said.
The passage of the resolutions in Miramar and Pembroke Pines also comes after several plane crashes at North Perry and in the surrounding neighborhoods in recent months, adding to tensions between the cities and the county.
“My whole disappointment with this North Perry Airport thing continues,” Miramar Commissioner Winston Barnes said Wednesday. “I’m convinced that Broward is not going to do anything about this situation one way or another.”
Arlene Satchell, the spokesperson for the Broward County Aviation Department, had previously told the Sun Sentinel that the department “is continuing to evaluate the EPA data on estimated lead emissions for general aviation airports and is monitoring developments on the federal level, such as the FAA Reauthorization Bill, regarding this subject matter to determine any feasible alternatives we may be able to explore.”
The department has put $30,000 in its requested budget from the county for an “environmental study,” Mike Nonnemacher, deputy director of the department, told Pembroke Pines commissioners at the meeting last month.
But Miramar and Pembroke Pines want the county to study lead specifically– and they want it to happen as soon as possible, without waiting for the budget to be approved. The EPA is already poised to issue a final endangerment finding about the fuel by the fall, the first step towards regulating it.
It remains unclear whether the aviation department has updated its plans since the passage of the two resolutions. Satchell did not respond to a request for comment Saturday.
Meanwhile, Miramar commissioners are planning to visit the FAA’s local office, which sits inside the city limits, Vice Mayor Alexandra Davis said, “so that we can express our concerns, and hopefully along with that, get some answers to the crashes and the quality of the air in surrounding areas.”
The commission is also working to hold a public meeting with “the different parties” involved, Colbourne said, where they can hear more about “what’s going on with the safety and health of our residents.”