Select Board Requests Delay To Start Of Airport Expansion Project

Jason Graziadei •

Airport South Apron
The south apron at Nantucket Memorial Airport.

After hearing emotional testimony from neighbors of Nantucket Memorial Airport about the potential impacts of the proposed ramp expansion project for private jets, the Select Board on Wednesday voted unanimously to request that the project be delayed until a joint meeting with the Airport Commission could be held.

Calling the Airport Commission and staff “bullies,” Monohansett Road resident Peter MacKay urged the Select Board to request the joint meeting and emphasized his belief that there had not been an adequate opportunity for island residents to provide feedback and have input on the ramp expansion.

“Due process has not been afforded here,” MacKay said. “They’re claiming to be good neighbors? They’re anything but. I’m asking and pleading for the Selectmen to honor our request for the complete lack of transparency and due process that has not been afforded by the airport. They are bullies and they hide behind the FAA.”

The project had not been on the Select Board’s agenda, but after the group of island residents spoke during public comment, the board decided to formally take up the matter and voted to issue the letter to the Airport Commission, whose members are appointed by the Select Board.

MacKay was joined during public comment by Meghan Perry, who originally requested the joint meeting at the most recent Airport Commission meeting, along with island residents Anne Phaneuf, Meri Lepore, and Adam Ross in urging the Select Board to step into the situation. MacKay and Phaneuf both emphasized the health issues their families have encountered - including cancer - that they believe is a result of the PFAS contamination around the airport caused by the discharge of firefighting foam during drills.

“I’m so frustrated by this bullying that I’m asking for help from you to please stop this,” MacKay added.

The project, a $40 million expansion of its south apron ramp to address airfield congestion, is scheduled to begin on March 4th. The additional 40,000 square feet planned to be added to the airfield ramp would require the removal of approximately six acres of wooded area within airport property along Monohansett Road. The project will also include the construction of a 15-foot berm between Monohansett Road and the airport perimeter intended to prevent the noise of aircraft coming and going from the airport from traveling to neighboring properties. The berm, however, will be constructed with PFAS-contaminated soil that already sits on airport property. Airport officials have said the berm will be encased with fabric to prevent the PFAS-contaminated soil from continuing to leach into the surrounding area.

“To find out after the fact they’re going to build a berm filled with PFAS-filled soil in our backyard?” Phaneuf said, holding back tears. “You’re going to build a berm of PFAS on top of the people who have been infected with this? When there is a tremendous amount of space on that airport apron.”

Airport Commission chair Art Gasbarro joined the meeting after the Select Board’s vote to request a delay to the start of the project to address some of the concerns raised by neighbors.

“We will work collaboratively if you feel a joint meeting will be helpful,” Gasbarro said. “The PFAS berm - right now the soil that has PFAS in it, the rainwater falls on it and it can leach into the ground. The airport would wrap it up into a membrane to improve the situation and stop the leaching… The airport has spent $9 million to date on PFAS remediation. This is being done to improve the situation.”

The Select Board’s motion included language requesting the joint meeting with the Airport Commission be held in the first two weeks of March, and that the members of the Board of Health be invited to attend.

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