Passenger traffic at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport was in freefall this summer, a report to airport commissioners showed Thursday.
Newly-appointed airport director Geoffrey Freeman said passenger traffic was down 70.9 per cent overall in July, and down 74.1 per cent in August compared with last year.
Mr. Freeman presented the numbers to commissioners at their meeting Thursday.
In the summer of 2019, around 14,000 passengers came through the airport in July, and about 17,000 passengers passed through in August, Mr. Freeman said.
This year the number fell to 4,000 in July, and 4,400 in August.
Despite the dismal numbers, Mr. Freeman said they were about on a par with air traffic numbers nationwide.
Also, summer carriers are ending service to the Vineyard, Mr. Freeman said, with Delta and American making their last summer runs on Labor Day.
JetBlue is still flying, he said, along with Cape Air, the Island’s only year-round airline.
Mr. Freeman also said Labor Day was the airport’s busiest day of the summer. About 400 passengers left on departing flights, “which would have been a normal summer day,” he said.
As for total airport operations — meaning all air traffic controlled by the Vineyard tower — Mr. Freeman said July was down 22 per cent from last summer and August was down 32 per cent.
In other business Thursday, commissioners discussed a lease request from Jay’s Septic Services. Company owner Jay Araujo, who was not on the Zoom call, wants to lease land from the airport to house two 10,000-gallon double-lined holding tanks for septic pumpouts. The tanks would be periodically emptied and their contents transported off Island for treatment.
Commissioner Geoffrey Wheeler said Mr. Araujo is seeking the lease in light of a decision by the Edgartown wastewater department to only allow emergency septic pumpouts from Edgartown residents, effective this month. The airport property Mr. Araujo wants to lease is adjacent to the business park, in an area where the airport stockpiles materials for runway and taxiway maintenance.
“We chose this location because it is out of the way and prepped all ready to hold the weight,” Mr. Freeman said.
The airport commission land use subcommittee negotiated with Mr. Araujo for the lease to be on a month-to-month basis with the understanding that it could be canceled at any time. “If things aren’t adequate for both parties we can move away from that,” Mr. Freeman said.
Mr. Freeman also said Edgartown’s decision on treating septic pumpouts is “putting the Island in a very difficult situation.”
Mr. Wheeler added: “From a public perspective, it would be good for the airport to be helping out with an Islandwide problem.”
Commissioners had questions, including about environmental safeguards.
Bob Zeltzer said he was concerned with the point of transfer and odors that might be emitted. “We want to make sure that containment is the best we can make it,” he said.
Commissioner Richard Knabel wanted to know often the tanks would be emptied. “It seems to me that the whole engineering of this thing is crucial to understanding how it works and to provide safety for all concerned, particularly those downwind,” he said. He continued:
“I’m perfectly willing to say we should help out the community with this because I don’t understand why Edgartown is suddenly saying they’re not going to take this material anymore. This really puts the Island in a bind, but I think we have to be careful about details of how this is going to work and what the safety precautions are.”
Commission chairman Bob Rosenbaum said he wanted more information before voting, and asked that Mr. Araujo attend the next meeting.
“In general we are leaning positive toward this, but there are some questions that need to be addressed,” Mr. Rosenbaum said.