January 29, 1998
While happy with much of what Tribune writer Rogers Worthington wrote about me in the article, "Activist in O’Hare battle not deterred by long odds" (Dec. 11), I was not surprised that some of my critics accused me of hyperbole when I stated in a letter to President Clinton, "If the airport pollution was calculated correctly, I believe that O’Hare Airport is probably one of the largest, if not the largest, single, man-made source polluters in the world."
What surprised me was that just paragraphs later, an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency official pretty much confirmed what I stated, that they are not counting O’Hare pollution correctly or completely. First, O’Hare Airport officials are not required to report much of their pollution. Second, aircraft and ground pollution does not stop at the airport’s boundaries, as he alluded to. Third, no one ever accused the Natural Resources Defense Council of hyperbole, when they disclosed this problem in a published report last year.
Because of space I can only explain the concept fundamentally: Based on the bubble methodology used in the California South Coast Air Quality Management Plan, to be counted correctly, minimally, all emissions should be counted out to five-six miles from the airport, beginning at the mix-down altitude rate of approximately 3,500 feet to the ground. This concept is also similar to the New Jersey and New York plans, only the criteria needs to be modified for O’Hare, the world’s busiest airport. Keeping in mind that much of the pollution is emitted overhead, the plan should also be modified comparable to the state of Washington, where the Science Bureau calculated the area of impact as 24 miles long and six miles wide per runway.
Therefore, I stand by what I stated to the president and am concerned about my critics' credibility or lack of knowledge, and the fact that some do not want the truth to be revealed. The millions of people affected by O’Hare Airport pollution have a right to know just how much, the variety of pollution and how that pollution harms them and their family’s health. Then they can make informed decisions. The O’Hare Airport issue is not a political issue but, a human rights issue.
I would also like to take this time to dispel another myth that Mayor Daley and some airline officials have been spreading to business leaders. We are not trying to close O’Hare. We understand the economic benefits to our communities. Our friends and families work there. Our membership even consists of pilots and O’Hare Air Traffic Controllers. Some airport employees have worked for O’Hare entities for more than twenty years. What we want is a reduction of flights to a safe, healthy level.
My detractors can call me what they want, but the facts are the facts. What we are trying to achieve is a balance between economics and public health.