Aviation fuel polluting air and water with lead?

May 11, 2011

By LISA RIZZO

The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) is taking legal action against several major oil companies and suppliers for allegedly causing the pollution of drinking water sources and air around 25 airports throughout California, including San Pedro Creek in Goleta and a nearly one-mile radius around Santa Barbara Municipal Airport.

This week, the environmental watchdog group served ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell, AvFuel Corporation and 38 airport-based fuel suppliers with notices of violation which charge that the fuel suppliers are in violation of Proposition 65 for selling leaded aviation gas that produces high lead emissions and causes the pollution of drinking water sources, and for not warning residents of the potential for lead exposure.

Under California law, pollution of drinking water sources above state standards would require the companies to cease sales of their leaded gas.

In its legal action, the CEH is backed by a 2008 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report which identifies 25 airports designated as those with the highest lead emissions in California.

Lead exposure can cause “a range of health effects, from behavioral problems and learning disabilities, to seizures and death,” according to the EPA. Children under six are most vulnerable to adverse effects from the toxic metal.

“The oil and aviation industries need to know Californians will not tolerate lead pollution that threatens our health and healthy environments,” said Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH, 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.”

In the notice the CEH threatens to file suit against each violator unless they stop selling leaded aviation fuel, clean the lead from the sources of drinking water, provide warning to those that live by or pass through the listed airports, and pay a civil penalty.

Lead is an additive in avgas used in piston-engine aircraft, usually small planes classified for general aviation or as air taxis. The EPA recognizes aviation fuel as the major source of lead emissions into the air.


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8 Comments

  1. Typoqueen says:

    Lead is bad news. We need to phase out anything that uses lead. If calvert is correct and the tech is out there then there is no excuse. I can see that there might be exceptions but I know that I don’t want lead or chemtrails falling on my children.

    (-7) 11 Total Votes - 2 up - 9 down
  2. Grumman-flyer says:

    I own two aircraft with low compression engines that are FAA approved to use Unleaded Auto Fuel. The issue is that auto fuel must contain 0% Ethanol. Since that is no longer available in CA any longer, I must use 100LL Avgas. If unleaded autogas were available to me without the energy robbing, corrosive, false national economy claims of Ethanol, I would be using it.
    The report from CEH says that the use of aviation low led gas causes lead in avgas can cause spark plug fouling, valve sticking, piston-ring land contamination and preignition due to lead deposits on piston crowns. This was an issue 20 years ago when 80 octane Avgas was fazed out. Today that is not an issue as the amount of lead in 100LL Avgas has been cut in half, and better valves have been introduced for the low compression engines like mine. Higher compression engined aircraft do not have a ready answer for a non leaded replacement just yet. Several are being looked at , but none are FAA approved as of yet. Safety of flight is the primary concern.
    This lawsuit may not go far as the safety of aircraft flight is at issue here, and this is primarly an FAA concern. The FAA sets all the standards. It would have to go all the way to the Supreme Court to overturn the FAA I think.

    (8) 8 Total Votes - 8 up - 0 down
  3. knowthisatascadero says:

    It is about control – If it was about the lead, then wouldn’t the land on either side of 101, Route 66, I-80 ect…….. be a dead zone? How many gallons of leaded fuel were burnt on the highways before is was phased out in the early 70’s?
    Plane engines will not take kindly to being rebuild to use non-lead fuel. The motors will fail prematurely and often.
    Lead is one of there OMG words that they try to bring us to our knees with.
    This is nothing but control. Agreed for kids under 6 lead is a problem, in enough quanity. It is control just as the Regional Water Quality Board wants to controls septic tanks.
    When is enough, enough?

    (4) 14 Total Votes - 9 up - 5 down
  4. Vagabond says:

    Well say goodbye to all those old wonderful WW2 warplanes that make stops all over California for charity events. It will not be cost effective to retrofit those old radial engines to burn no lead gas.
    And private planes will just leave too, probably with their wealthy owners in tow, California shoots self in foot once again.

    (10) 20 Total Votes - 15 up - 5 down
  5. calvertworthington says:

    This is an issue well known to general aviation (small planes) pilots & owners. It’s about costs $. The ‘old’ piston engines can be modified to run on low-lead/no lead, but it means an expensive overhaul. There are some performance issues as well, but they can be mitigated. Other added costs involve the need for fuel dealers to replace their storage tanks.

    Again, its about money, not technology.

    (4) 12 Total Votes - 8 up - 4 down
    • R.Hodin says:

      Such as replacing valve seats and maybe valves as well? Sure, it’s an expense, but not a major one, unless it’s an oldie.

      (-1) 5 Total Votes - 2 up - 3 down
  6. easymoney says:

    Looks like we might be heading back to the stone age, the transportation that won’t pollute is a donkey. Oh, I guess they too pollute in the form of methane and droppings. Oh well then it’s walking…

    (13) 25 Total Votes - 19 up - 6 down
    • mkaney says:

      Well, at least that would cure our national obesity problem.

      (5) 11 Total Votes - 8 up - 3 down

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