By Len Ramirez

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — There are 21 schools and childcare centers within a one-and-a-half-mile radius of Reid Hillview
Airport and for decades planes have taken off and landed just past the field and jungle gym at Meyer Elementary.

But a new study links the airport’s piston-engine airplanes flying on leaded fuel with high lead levels in the blood of neighboring children.

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“The results of the lead study that was undertaken by the county are tragic,” said Andres Quintero, Vice President of the Alum Rock Board of Trustees.

Alum Rock leaders are now joining airport neighbors in the push to shut down the airport.

“That’s a historic wrong that can be fixed with one vote of the Board of Supervisors to go ahead and shut this airport down,” Quintero said.

The study, which analyzed blood samples from 17,000 children between 2011 and 2020 showed that quote:

“Children residing within 0.5 miles of Reid-Hillview Airport present with significantly higher blood lead levels than children more distant,” and that “blood lead levels of sampled children increase significantly with monthly quantities of aviation gasoline sold to fix wing operators at the airport.”

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The blood lead levels were comparable to those of children in the Flint Michigan water crisis.

“I don’t want lead in my kids,” said Dora Cano, who has lived near the airport for 50 years. “These airplanes are just flying over our houses all day, dropping lead everywhere, crashing behind my house. I’m fed up with it.”

But airport supporters said leaded fuels are being phased out at Reid-Hillview.

“It would be wrong to assume that we like lead in fuel,” said Walt Gyger, the owner of Trade Winds Aviation and doesn’t know if his business has a future here.

He says the airport is just weeks away from switching to a new unleaded fuel for most airplanes. But will that be enough to keep the airport open?

“My personal opinion is that it will take one argument away,” Gyger said. “But people who want to close the airport will find other arguments to close it. So I think the war will continue.”

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The soonest the airport could close is 2031 under a previous agreement with the FAA. Santa Clara County Supervisors will be discussing the future of the airport and a possible closure at their meeting on August 17th.