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County study found lead within limits in soil around Reid-Hillview

Officials sat on results until journalists pressed for release

The Mercury News of San Jose, California, reported that a study conducted by Santa Clara County found that soil samples taken at Reid-Hillview of Santa Clara County Airport contained lead levels below local, state, or federal safety limits.

Reid-Hillview of Santa Clara County Airport. Photo by Mike Fizer.

The soil report was released to the news organization on June 8 only “after a public records request asking for the study’s results went unanswered for weeks,” according to the newspaper. The $130,000 study was conducted by a Dallas-based firm, which according to the newspaper, examined samples from 32 locations around the airport, taken at various depths into the soil. A similar study was also conducted at San Martin Airport.

“We all want lead out of aviation fuel, but the transition needs to be done safely and smartly,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “The fact that the county sat on these findings, and then were essentially forced to release them, is telling. The county hid these findings and then turned around and prohibited the sale of certain aviation fuel required for thousands of aircraft. This prohibition significantly increases the risk of misfuelling and imposes serious safety concerns for pilots.”

On January 1, Santa Clara County banned the sale of 100LL Reid-Hillview and San Martin airports, citing a contested airborne lead study in 2021 ordered by the county. AOPA and other associations, pilot groups, and airport businesses quickly pointed out that many of the 200,000 aircraft in the current general aviation piston fleet require higher-octane fuel to fly safely, and that misfuelling can cause detonation and engine malfunction resulting in catastrophic engine failure. Pilots and aircraft owners in the county whose aircraft require higher-octane fuel are forced to find it outside the county before landing at their home airports.

In addition, the Avgas Coalition led by AOPA sent a letter on May 6 to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen, outlining the need for 100LL fuel to be available at our nation’s airports while the industry works with the Biden administration to find a fleetwide unleaded fuel solution as quickly as possible.

The Avgas Coalition is a broad partnership of those who represent many facets of the transition to an unleaded avgas future. This coalition has a single-minded purpose of steering the GA industry to an unleaded future and advocating for a smart and safe transition that works for the entire GA fleet.

Alyssa J. Miller

Eric Blinderman

Senior Director of Communications
Eric Blinderman is AOPA’s Senior Director of Communications. Eric joined AOPA in 2020 after several years at leading marketing/communications agencies in New York and is looking forward to putting his newly minted private pilot certificate to work.
Topics: Advocacy, Airport Advocacy

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