Noise level excessive at many airports

Aircraft-generated noise pollution remained above acceptable levels around nearly one-third of Japan’s airfields in 1998, according to a report released by the Environment Agency on Friday.

Nearly 70 percent of 599 checkpoints measured around 57 publicly and Defense Agency-operated airports were within government-set noise pollution limits.

This figure is the same as was logged in 1994, but slightly worse than in 1996 and 1997. Measurements are taken by local municipalities over a one-week period or longer in populated areas near airports.

The environmental standard for residential areas near public airports is 70 WECPNL (Weighted Equivalent Continuous Perceived Noise Level) — a measure that takes into account noise pollution over an extended period of time — and 75 for nonresidential, but inhabited areas.

The most flagrant violation of the standard, 91 WECPNL, was recorded at Okinawa Prefecture’s Futenma Air Station, which is under the Defense Agency’s jurisdiction, although it is a U.S. Marines base. Officials speculate that the high figure is due to the close proximity of homes to the facility.

Several steps have been taken to deal with the problem, such as changing flight patterns, relocating facilities offshore, limiting the number of flights and promoting the introduction of low-noise pollution planes.

Officials say because of the failure to improve the situation, they intend to pursue further cooperative efforts with the Transportation Ministry and Defense Agency but have no specific plans yet.

Airport’s impact

An Aichi Prefecture-based citizens’ group urged the Environment Agency on Friday to evaluate the environmental impact of the proposed Chubu International Airport and recommend the cancellation of a man-made island accompanying the project.

Members of the Nagoya-based group Network for the Rethinking of Chubu International Airport expressed concern that the airport, to be built in Ise Bay by Aichi Prefecture, would ravage the area’s environment.

They said experts have estimated construction of the airport could cut the local fish harvest by 80 percent.

The group also contends that plans to build a man-made island called Maejima adjacent to the airport, intended to facilitate transportation and local development, threaten fish runs in local rivers and would terminally disrupt the functions of bay shallows that are indispensable to sea life.

Even if the project is approved, the estimated construction time — four years and nine months — means it would not be completed in time for the World Expo 2005 to be held in Aichi Prefecture. The expo was one of the major justifications for the airport’s construction, the group said.

The Environment Agency is currently working on an opinion on the project as required under law, and officials say that they intend to carefully review the proposed plans.