A Community’s Fight Against Air Pollution from Aviation Fuel

Maria Reyes is a Cassell community member and activist in San Jose, California living near the Reid-Hillview Airport. The following are words she wrote about the on-going fight to close the Reid-Hillview Airport whose use of leaded aviation gas and lack of sound barriers have polluted the surrounding communities and decreased their quality of life for decades.

As a Cassell community member, I have been involved since 2021 in working to eliminate lead exposure from avgas.

In 2020 one of my neighbors was appointed as an airport commissioner.  She called me one evening and asked what was the one thing I wanted with regards to the airport.  My response was to close it, get reparation for our families and have community lead re-envisioning instead of County lead re-envisioning.

We formed a Coalition of 25 non profits who came to aide our community through knocking on doors and asking neighbors to sign a petition for closure. We spent every Saturday from May through the end of July knocking on doors.  We collected 2,500 signatures.  These signatures were then formally presented to the Board of Supervisors.

In addition to collecting these signatures, members from the coalition met separately with each Board of Supervisor member and asked for their support in the closure of this airport.

In August 17, 2021 when the board met to discuss this issue, we had approximately 300 speakers.  The meeting lasted until midnight.

My biggest success was in getting about 300 community members to speak to the Board of Supervisors and at the EPA hearings [to finalize the endangerment finding about leaded avgas] against the injustice of this airport.

The next step to ending the use of leaded fuel is to have clear and transparent action from the EPA.  The EPA needs to be held accountable in eliminating this dangerous chemical from all our communities.

The Mission of the EPA is to protect our families. However, they have failed our communities.

During the Period of time from January 2011 through December 2018, 2.3M gallons of avgas were sold at Reid Airport.  How much pollution was emitted into the air we breathe?

In addition, we have 21 schools including daycare centers and private homes in our communities.  Ask yourself, how many people are being subjected to lead contaminated air as this airport is open 24/7?

Dr. Zaharan stated in his study that our children had higher led levels than the children in the Flint Michigan Study.  You can stop drinking the water in Michigan and drink bottled water, but our families cannot stop breathing the contaminated air.

In addition to having accountability from the EPA, Santa Clara Board of Supervisors also need to have accountability to our communities.  We elect the members of the board and yet, in reviewing the history of Reid-Hillview Airport, the County has consistently favored keeping this airport open and has accepted money to continue the growth of this airport.

This airport has received continual support from the government even though it serves no purpose for the community.

This airport does not allow for our community to have trees in our local park that are over a certain height, our children are not allowed to fly kites, nor was the local library able to expand because of the airport.

There are no sound barriers surrounding this airport nor is there a curfew at this airport.

Our children deserve to live with a better quality of life. This quality of life has been taken away because the EPA and the County have failed our families.  It’s time for accountability, truth, and responsibility.

Every action has a consequence.