Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Manston Airport Air Pollution, an admission of failure

I guess looking at the picture of The Red Arrows playing Russian Roulette over Manston in 1968 most people would concede that some things people do with aeroplanes are more likely to reduce your life expectancy than others, but this doesn’t necessarily stop people from doing them.

Now this April the government brought out a report called “Estimating Local Mortality Burdens associated with Particulate Air Pollution” here is the link to the report http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1317141074607

This report has resulted in various newspaper articles, along the lines of memento mori, news articles are often like this, particularly if the journalist has just woken up, the appropriate phrase is something like; sic transit gloria vino.

Anyway I sought to try to work out whether there were particular particulate air pollution issues related to a freight hub at Manston, for this I used Monday’s blog post http://thanetonline.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/manston-airport-closure-issues.html where William Epps acted as a devil’s advocate and helped considerably with my understanding of the situation.

This particulate air pollution is mostly associated with burning fuels like diesel and jet engine fuel, I for instance live by a bus stop and vaguely wonder if the fumes from the busses will knock a few hours off my life. William lives in Broadstairs where one of the main dangers to health is probably the folk festival. The conversation meandered something along the lines of; Michael sic at omnibus William sic in at.     

Airport pollution is no new thing although with Manston it’s mostly been noise pollution. In the 60s the noise pollution lead to the American Airforce trying to introduce a color bar, this particular form of apartheid was supposed to work along the lines of Margate is off limits to our “colored boys” they can use Ramsgate where we are making all the noise with our jet fighters and bombers, and wot, can you speak up a bit? here is the link to some of the newspaper articles about this http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/blogpicts2/id71.htm

Anyway coming back to the air pollution, the report says we have higher levels in Thanet, trawling the internet this seems to be due to a mixture of the prevailing wind direction blowing across southern England where all those nice people are rushing around in 4x4s and lorries, the dispersed emissions are in the air blowing this way, pockets around busy local road junctions can be bad.

On the remember you die bit (I may dream in latin but am waking up now) anyone who has hung around the odd nearly departed will notice that it is often breathing that is the problem. The oxygen bottle being much in evidence and the quacks asking did uncle Fred ever smoke, I guess now they will be asking if he lived near a busy road junction too.

Anyway the Manston questions that seem to be mostly unanswered, that relate to the latest notion of a major cargo hub, rather than a regional airport you can actually fly from, are. 1 How many of the big cargo plane movements that burn about a ton of jet engine fuel in the local area would Manston need to make a profit? I think the answer is around 60 a day; a bit of a heavy smoker. 2 Does Manston have the infrastructure, plane parking and so on, to actually be able to operate the required number of flights so make a profit? 3 Would burning 50 to 100 tons of jet engine fuel a day in the Manston area reduce the life expectancy of people living upwind, which is mostly in Margate, Cliftonville and Broadstairs? 4 How much time would knocked off their lives, if this is the case, would people give up to secure say 200 local jobs, a week, a month, a year or two?

Anyway the admission of failure, the answer is, I just don’t know the answers to any of these questions. The bottom line being that while I support a regional airport, I am still very uncertain if I support a major airfreight hub there.       


The picture above comes from the book Twilight of Pistons that I publish, Red Arrows, Russian Roulette, Manston Summer 1968


This map relates to an answer to one of the comments

34 comments:

  1. As a discussion I have no problem with your article, Michael, but I do question the guesstimate of air movements if Manston became a so called freight hub. Frankly if it remains an airfield, and even if its main business were freight, just where is it going to attract all these new users from which it could not attract when handling freight for the last decade and a half. My own view is that to stay an airfield it needs to scale down to small regional airport level.

    Your pollution discussion is also flawed on the areas you target. Take a map, mark north clearly on it an then see where a south westerly wind from the west end of the runway takes you. It is more Minnis Bay and beyond to Reculver, then central Thanet based on take offs using the most fuel and the usual direction of such at Manston.

    On the broader pollution picture, it is a problem of our time. The Greens would get rid of nuclear power, fossil fuel fired power, internal combustion engines, oil drilling, fracking and, very probably, breaking wind by overweight beer drinkers. The reason life expectancy is so much greater now than our ancestral forefathers enjoyed is that we have warm homes, better medical facilities and less backbreaking manual effort to survive. I do not have to go out gathering and chopping wood or hunting down some furry beast in order to keep my family warm and fed and planes and ships enable us to enjoy foods from all over the world.

    Thus we pose the question. If stopping all pollution takes us back to cave dwelling, would life expectancy increase or decrease? What about the medical advances that have come from bi-products of fossil fuels.

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    1. I guess William that the idea of a freight hub, hinted at by Roger Gale and the save the airport group, is very recent, the air pollution report is also very recent and any decision about the airport has to be made very quickly.

      While I do support a regional airport and would have liked to see one with a large historic aircraft factor, when a plane goes over I don’t complain about the noise, I grab my camera, the down side of Manston from the point of view of running a local business has never been the planes that actually do fly but the uncertainty over the planes that may fly.

      In some ways I think much more damage was done to the future of the airport by those who wanted London Manston, then was ever done by those who were against night flights.

      The 100 tons of jet fuel a day would be burnt upwind of you, far more than it would be burnt upwind of me, so yes I am fairly relaxed about the whole thing and as I said I just don’t know if it would be an issue.

      I know when the older ferries were operating out of Ramsgate you could both see and smell the pollution from them, particularly in the harbour area.

      On the issue of how many planes, I think the problem in the past has been that the level of operation where the airport would make a profit has never seemed to be a major consideration. The business plan seems to have been becoming London’s third airport with hundreds of movements a day, or bust and as we know it has been bust every time. If we were to get an operator genuinely trying to make a profit there out of a freight hub, I think the infrastructure would be so stretched as to make any other flying activity impossible.

      Of course modern medicine goes hand in hand with the rest of modern technology and the overall effect is to greatly increase life expectancy, this doesn’t mean that one chooses to breath exhaust fumes, unless of course one’s business plan is somewhat radical.

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    2. Michael, sadly modern technology brings both advances and wealth along with pollution. Look at China. Fastest growing economy and the worst smog laden cities in the world. It is not a choice for the people living in those cities.

      Any open airport, except restricted military ones, will attract a range of users and no operator is going to reject business. Even Heathrow with its work load still takes small executive jets and helicopters.

      No I am not more at risk from aircraft pollution than you, people in Minnis Bay are though the roundabout in Birchington probably produces far more.

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  2. I'm sorry Michael, you've said it again: show me a single reputable source which suggests that traffic fumes can travel 70 miles from the conurbations to Thanet. Everything I have read suggests that is total rubbish - in fact road emissions travel metres from the source.

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    1. Joe I think the idea is that particulate background air pollution shouldn’t exceed 40 µg/m³ in Kent the Annual mean background particulate concentration is between 17 and 20µg/m³. More information can be found in Defra’s particulate statistics at http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130123162956/http:/www.defra.gov.uk/evidence/statistics/environment/airqual/aqconcparticulate.htm/

      The background pollution gets worse as you move from west to east, due to the prevailing wind direction, with a higher concentration around London.

      The point here is that we are already at a level of particles in the air, which is halfway to the recommended maximum safe level. In a general sense I would say that living next to a major road junction would certainly push you over, how many tons of jet engine fuel, how far upwind and how high up it would have to be burnt is a complex issue.

      My own approximate calculations suggest that an air freight hub would push it over north to southeast of the airport to beyond the Thanet coastline.

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    2. Michael, how can a south westerly, which travels towards the north east, push pollution to the south east of the airport? Fuel consumption is highest in climb mode so most of that generated by a large aircraft taking off from Manston, on usual runway direction and prevailing wind conditions would head out to sea over the Minnis to Reculver sector. Your calculation is obviously flawed.

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    3. Well William it was you that said in a comment on Monday’s post that a lot of the planes on takeoff head off towards Herne Bay so I did rely on this information to assume they were climbing loaded under full power to the south of you travelling in a westerly direction. I guess if what you said was different to what you meant and they are turning to the east of you, then you don’t have anything to worry about on the life expectancy front, unless of course you were a naughty boy with the odd fag behind the bicycle shed.

      As I have said, basically I don't know, I have an enquiring mind and technical background, which often causes trouble, and I have done my best here with the information that is available.

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    4. It really isn't complicated, Michael, but not too worry as it is all speculation about Manston's future at present. Like I said, a very long time on busy airfields will have ensured I already have my quota of avtag and, yes, I did smoke until 16 years ago, though I did not start until five years after leaving school.

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    5. Ah William, on the bright side you will be pleased to know that this type of lung damage starts to reduce as soon as you stop being exposed to particulate pollution that is over the recommended safety level. On the not so bright side I once had a bit of a run in with some quacks who had provided a relation, who was falling of the proverbial perch, with a faulty oxygen mask. When I made a fuss they asked if he had ever smoked and on me answering about forty years ago, they said that was probably caused the problem.

      Glad to know it isn’t complicated by the way.

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    6. Whatever, Michael, its always our fault and down to some dodgy habit in bygone days. Once was told at a lipid clinic that I was obviously a heavy drinker. When I pointed out I had the odd beer after cricket and the occasional glass of wine when out to dinner, there was general agreement amongst them that I must have been a heavy drinker in my youth. Denial was useless as I had probably forgotten.

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    7. William when I was ten days old the hospital put me in a contaminated cot with broken and sharp wire mesh, I contracted osteomyelitis and spent most of my childhood in various hospitals and convalescent homes in various states of disablement while the passed the buck. I came to the conclusion some years ago that if you went to the doctor with a nasty cough and said you were a non smoker you got antibiotics and generally the your chest infection got better in about ten days, if however you admitted to the odd cigarette or cigar, you didn’t get any antibiotics. I often wonder how this attitude affects the smoking related mortality figures.

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    8. I'm sorry Michael, I don't think you understand the term 'mean average background concentration'. It is largely derived from industry and vehicles. So the high levels in London are because there are lots of vehicles in a fairly small area, and the well-known topography of London means that the pollution does not dissipate.

      This has nothing to do with the wind direction and nothing to do with particulates in Thanet - which are derived from pollutants produced in Thanet. If we have high levels measured at street level it is because we have quite a lot of traffic and a topography which means that the air does not dissipate. Nothing at all to do with the wind blowing pollutants towards us from London.

      I will agree with you that aircraft must have an effect, but clearly we have less to worry about than parts of London - that have planes taking off every 3 mins and a considerably larger amount of congested traffic causing the pollutants.

      Unless we are suddenly going to have more aircraft traffic than the Heathrow corridor and multiple times the traffic, I can't see that you're doing anything other than scaremongering.

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    9. Joe it is always difficult replying to anonymous bloggers who appear to be trying to justify their own opinions, in your case I would say that my replies are inclined to look like scaremongering, because the impartially derived government figures that you asked me for do look scary if you don’t understand them.

      You seem to assume that I just post any old thing up without properly researching the issue, obviously if I did people wouldn’t bother to read what I write, obviously with the internet anyone yourself included can just google what they don’t follow and the information can be found.

      So I should reiterate that in the UK we are in an improving situation with air quality, however I have added a background particulate pollution map for the UK and you can see very clearly the general situation is related to the landmass and wind direction.

      I would also add that once you get around 3 to 5 miles from the pollution source then dissipation removes the problem, an issue here in Thanet is you can’t easily get that far from Manston. Obviously in the case of something burning much less fuel then the dissipation distance is much shorter. I guess your next question will relate to justification of air pollution and dissipation around air cargo hubs, you could always google it yourself.

      I guess a considerable aspect of the pollution related to London would be the economic benefits associated with greater levels of pollution. Obviously were the airport to generate considerable economic benefits locally, then there is a trade-off to be had in terms of life expectancy, something along the lines of if you are better of economically you tend to live longer, which would compensate for the reduction in life expectancy due to increased levels of air pollution.

      On the other hand there could be a situation where we got the sound and air pollution from some better off areas, without getting commensurate economic benefits.

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    10. The Birchington roundabout was declared a pollution danger zone some years ago. Presumably an airport would be as polluting or more?

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  3. If an area only gets 5% of its water supply from its own aquifer because 95% can't be trusted. Yet has how many direct abstraction licences for agriculture and laundries etc ? Do the contaminants in the ground water not end up transferred to air ? If an area is stressed by corruption and poverty the result is more drinking, more mental ill health, more breathing (Chronic hyperventilation syndrome) and with "CHS" the air is not inhaled with efficient filtering.

    I have known people in the past looking to retire and looking where to buy a house or bungalow. They saw in Thanet an area surrounded by a giant pharmaceutical plant and airport. Within the area a highly suspect mercury plant at Thor and an outfit making printing ink Sericol. An industrial estate mid isle with the area smothering smell of lung irritant isocyanates from plastic processing. The smell of a foundry. They bought elsewhere.

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    1. And an awful lot didn't, 11:26. As a south east London based estate agent I regularly sold houses for people who were retiring to Thanet and Herne Bay. Thanet has sea on almost three sides so how can it be surrounded by a pharmaceutical and an airport, both actually on the same side. Usual bollix from you.

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    2. Anon 11.26 a mixture of half truths and what happened in the past I see. The truth of the matter is that the pollution situation in southern England is improving and you would be hard pushed to find a part of the uk that didn’t have similar historic pollution problems. I guess from what you say you live in a different part of the uk.

      What I suggest you do to start with is look in your own backyard on the Environment Agency website at http://maps.environment-agency.gov.uk/wiyby/wiybyController?ep=maptopics&lang=_e and leave us here in Thanet to get on with our own issues.

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  4. Well it seems that not all is happy in TDC land if the letter written by Harvey, published today on Ian Driver's blog

    and I quote " It is therefore with considerable disappointment and significant concern that I have to inform you of the fact that from the moment that I briefed the Leader of the Council and the Chairman of the General Purposes Committee of Cllr. Driver's complaints, I have encounters successive attempts to remove me from my critical oversight role including an unlawful attempt to remove me from the statutory office to which I was appointed by full Council. That this should be attempted at all should be of concern you. That it should involve (to different degrees) the Leader of the Council, the Chair of the General Purposes Committee, the Chief Executive (SM) and the Head of East Kent Human Resources,"

    There is a lot more and should form part of compulsory bedtime reading.

    Apologies Michael for posting off topic but I thought it quite important

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    1. Barry I am hoping one of our blogging councillors from either of the main parties will do a post about the situation at the council, particularly the issues relating to senior officers. My feelings are that as our elected representatives they owe us an explanation of what is going on among officers who are being paid out of council tax well over £1,000 per week.

      If needs must then I guess I will do one, but as I am not a member of the council I am not in the best position to this.

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    2. Michael, I think it would be difficult for any main party district councillor to comment on this issue at this stage. A Labour councillor so doing could well fall foul of his leadership in the process and comments by a Conservative would be dismissed in most quarters as political point scoring. Cllr Driver can, and has commented, being answerable to known one but himself and that is about the best we are likely to get for now. As a town councillor I know insufficient to make a worthwhile contribution, most of what I have heard being hearsay, and I would suggest you are in the same position.

      Ultimately the truth will out as it invariably does, but, for now, it is an allegation unsubstantiated by anyone else.

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    3. I was shocked to read that the EKO LLP Partnership Agreement is not lodged in the TDC Vault, but has been taken to Chief Executive Dr Sue Mcgonigals's house for safe keeping?

      In tandem with Harvey Patterson, I would like to know more about those involved with the partnership?

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    4. Theresa Bruton at KCC (Teresa?) is part of EKO: should she be contacted?

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    5. Just tried both spellings 8.46 but both failed to deliver. I am sure KCC must have a counterpart agreement? Unless someone at KCC has taken it home in their handbag as well?

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    6. Google: it's Theresa - theresa.bruton@kent.gov.uk

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    7. I see a new blog stating he has taken it down because he has been threatened with legal action.

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    8. Oh I see now 9.35, I typed Burton instead of Bruton. I will re-send, thanks.

      Barry, I was not aware anyone at a senior level had a reputation left to ruin?

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    9. Cllr Driver was threatened with legal action...by Harvey. In fact threatening (without basis) to seize his home. Hardly what we want TDC civil servants to do to our elected councillors. Harvey has overstepped the mark and should be sacked.

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    10. Ok I will do a post later about the problems at the top of TDC, there is an irony in the council’s legal officer, presumably acting on behalf of the council, threatening an elected member with the loss of his house if he fails to do something that is impossible, i.e. remove something published on the internet.

      I have sent the TDC big wigs an open letter, basically asking them what the hell they think they are playing at.

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    11. Let us calm this all down a bit. Harvey is the council's legal officer and he has warned Cllr Driver about breaching the rules over the publication of confidential matters. To say he has threatened to seize said councillors home is a bit OTT. TDC could take legal action which may produce a financial penalty but they cannot simply go around grabbing people's homes. It is up to the individual how he would pay any such fine imposed and, I would imagine, like most of us, selling one's home would be the last fall back position. Savings, loans, re-mortgaging would all surely take precedence over such drastic action.

      I would stress that this is not an opinion on the justification or otherwise of the Legal Officer's action, but simply to point out that the council cannot just grab a councillor's home as implied by Solo Gays and Anon at 10:03. Even a council tenant in long rent arrears has a right to a court hearing before eviction proceedings.

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  5. A largely incoherent ramble on air pollution at manston. Picking up a few points it certainly is not so that noise pollution was the only/main pollution problem at Manston. Read any of the Environment Agency reports on the water supply or air pollution. Nor that air pollution in the UK is improving to any great extent - rather the problems are severe and in London various breaches of EU law.

    The genral point of gneral wind seems to have been dropped as essentially idioticas the wind blows in differnet directions and carries air pollution with it. While 747's discharging pollution at takeoff and landing at rooftop height would be extremely polluting and dangerous.

    But no mention yet of Infratil and TDc removing the air monitoring? At the very least the fines would be adrift and the monthly KIACC meetings farcical?

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    1. Things is 7:59 that you have mentioned the removal of monitors so often that everyone else is bored with it. Did you never read the story of the shepherd boy who cried "Wolf."

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    2. The removal of the monitors is a fact William no matter how hard you try to ignore or decry it presumably for party political purposes. Next you'll be telling us Thor mercury is below Broadstairs. Anything to avoid doing anything even if it means polluting your neighbours eh?

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    3. Fact or not, Anon, no one seems terribly interested other than you. Likewise with your claims about Thor for, again, nobody else has raised this issue with the Broadstairs council. It is all very historic and there are far more pressing current problems. As for the rubbish about party political purposes, pray tell me what they could possibly be. Administrations at TDC have changed over the years yet, regardless of who has been in office, you have continued to proclaim these issues on line. Contact your District Councillor or seek a FOI response from TDC officers if you really want answers.

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  6. Speaking as a local taxpayer, I would REALLY like to know what is in the documents that Ian Driver has obtained. They've been to court to prevent him from revealing the contents and he's been threatened with imprisonment if he does reveal them. Now they are piling further threats on top. To me. it sounds as if they are utterly desperate and will stop at nothing to prevent him from spilling the beans. Now, call me cynical, but I don't think they'd be doing all of this if there weren't something juicy in those documents. Again, call me cynical, but I hope those incriminated in any documents aren't using their office to prevent exposure.

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