A $2.2 million, three-year study of the impact of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on the air quality of surrounding communities was approved unanimously by the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners Monday, February 25th.

Said to be the largest single study in the U.S. on this subject, the communities of Westchester, El Segundo, Inglewood and Lennox will be monitored for sources of pollution to determine the quantity of the pollution directly related to LAX.

The monitoring area will include 11 monitors placed north, south and east of LAX, up to two miles outside from the airport.

The study is being designed by a committee of local, state and national experts on pollution, and the contract to conduct the “Air Quality and Source Apportionment Study at Los Angeles International Airport” was awarded to Jacobs Consultancy, a company based in Canada.

The study involves the U.S. Environmental Protection Study, the Federal Aviation Administration, the South Coast Air Quality Management Board and the California Air Resources Board.

It is to be a multiphase study, the first two phases of which are to demonstrate a hypothesis that contaminant sources can be traced and segregated.

The third phase would include monitoring for one year at 11 locations in these communities, at an additional cost of $3 million to $5 million, according to airport officials.

“This is the most comprehensive air quality study that’s ever been taken on by an airport in the U.S.,” said Roger Johnson, deputy executive director for environmental services at Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA).

Los Angeles World Airports is the Los Angeles agency that operates the city’s four airports, including LAX.

Denny Schneider, president of ARSAC (Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion), said the study was conceived before 9/11 — which substantially delayed it — to distinguish what the real pollution contaminant contributions are from LAX operations and to determine what can be done to reduce them.

“LAWA has done some good things to use low-emission cars, ground equipment and trucks, and this study can provide critical information in identifying problem areas,” Schneider said.

He said that information developed last year by UCLA professor John Froines found that ultra-small 0.1 micron particles were found to extend into the communities during takeoffs and landings, while these same particles were not noticeable if only particle sizes of 2.5 and ten microns were measured, and that the smaller the particles, the more dangerous they are, since they get easily trapped in the lungs.

The study is not related to the LAX Master Plan, but promised as part of a community benefit package that was part of the early 2006 Settlement Agreement between the City of Los Angeles, surrounding communities, Los Angeles County and ARSAC, said Schneider.

Commissioner Val Velasco said that the results of this action must not just be test results, but actions taken to mitigate contamination and pollution.

“Obviously we don’t know until it comes in what it gives us,” said airport commission president Alan Rothenberg. “It’s an incredibly complex issue to find out what pollutants come from what sources, but the attempt to seriously measure it is commendable. And I hope that we can show the way to airports everywhere and other public entities that are faced with situations where pollutants are from multiple sources.”