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Orange County

Building El Toro May Hurt Air Quality

Environment: Revised report says construction of an airport at the closed base would create dust and raise nitrogen dioxide levels.


Building a commercial airport at El Toro would probably worsen air quality, according to the latest version of the project's environmental report released Friday.

The report comes a month before the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on whether to move forward with planning for the airport at the closed Marine base.

County officials said the latest document--in 14 thick volumes--does not make many changes from an earlier draft.

The original report said any air pollution created by the airport could be reduced to the point of insignificance.

But the new report said diesel engine exhaust during airport construction would result in short-term concentrations of dust and nitrogen dioxide levels. The amount of pollutants would exceed state standards but fall within federal standards, the report said.

Officials said another change in the air quality findings was due not to new data but to a typographical error in the original document.

Gary Simon, the El Toro program manager, said the county plans next week to release the report's comments section, which includes more than 8,000 answers to questions submitted by the public during the environmental study.

Copies of the full report will be distributed to local libraries.

"To our point of view, the documents are not worthwhile until you see how they resolve to answer the questions posed," said Meg Waters, a spokeswoman for a group that opposes an airport at El Toro. "Really the report is only 20% final because 80% of it is the responses the county must have to comments for it to be a finished product."

First of 2 Hearings Is Set for Sept. 4

On Sept. 4, the Board of Supervisors is planning the first of two hearings on the report, Simon said.

The environmental report is designed to measure how the proposed airport would affect the surrounding community. A draft copy of the report was released last year.

The supervisors are divided 3 to 2 in favor of building an airport that by 2020 could handle 28 million passengers per year.

Residents who live around the base oppose an airport, saying it will bring noise, traffic and pollution.

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