Over on Thanet Life Blog local councillor and aviator Simon Moores is engaged in a dialogue about the chances of a plane crash landing in Ramsgate, see http://birchington.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/winging-it.html this seems to revolve around something like winning the lottery, a game of chance with very long odds.
I guess most of us who live in Ramsgate have seen an aeroplane very low over the town and not behaving completely conventionally, something that the untrained eye would construe an a near miss, but to the expert eye is probably well with in the bounds of safety.
One way or another it is difficult to avoid some degree of awareness that Ramsgate is a town at the end of the runway and this does involve some element of risk, although quantifying that risk isn’t straightforward.
Obviously the risk of a plane crashing on part of Ramsgate varies dependent on a number of factors, the most obvious one being the number of flights, in the same way that the chances of winning the lottery relates to the number of tickets you buy.
Then there is the guidance equipment, radar and other gadgets, at Manston this has a sort of rather vague and rather bumpy recent history, what the standard of this equipment is at Manston now compared to the standards at the major airports that are being used for comparison, is something that I have lost track of.
There are of course the risks involved with various sorts of pollution, the most prominent recently being night time noise, how this would link to local educational achievement, what sort of amounts of sleep we would lose and how we would function with less sleep.
My interest in the safety issues at Manston though stems from my concerns about our water supply, this is because the airport sits on top of the local underground drinking water reservoir.
In simple terms, the rain landing at Manston soaks into the ground, and not far under the surface this ground is chalk and this chalk acts like a great big sponge, which stores millions of gallons of water.
At this point Queen Victoria enters the story, history often pops up and often people wish it wouldn’t, in 1835 when the water in Ramsgate was pumped from under the town and most of the town’s sewage soaked into the ground, Victoria contracted a nasty disease here.
I suppose that that the greatest health improvements made by the Victorians related to drainage and drinking water, in simple terms moving the well away from the privy, and during the mid 1800s a sewer was put in here in Ramsgate also a water supply was dug under Manston, the pink bit on the map.
What they did was to dig a well connected to a tunnel under the chalk which collected the water that was pumped into a large tank on top of a tower, pipes from this tank lead to the taps in people’s homes.
As you can see from the map the tunnel follows the line of the main runway and is still one of the main sources of our water supply here in Thanet. A supply of water here in the southeast is a difficult thing to maintain and without vast expense we are likely to be reliant on this source for the foreseeable future.
Anyway for some time now I have been making a fuss about the protection of our water supply, funny bit next, some time ago I requested some documents about the local water supply form the council, and one of the ones they sent me had been copied from where I had published it on the internet previously, this made me chuckle and I wondered who else they had sent it to with all my links to the documents included, see http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/drink/id39.htm
Anyway the airport, council and environment agency behaved very responsibly about the drainage issues at the airport, held a public consultation, which I responded to, see http://thanetonline.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/fish-chips-and-antifreeze-manston.html and http://thanetonline.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/kent-international-airport-drainage.html well you know me there will be loads of it, mostly boring unless you drink the tap water here in Thanet, or worse than that pay the water bill. If you don’t fall into this bracket I would stop reading now.
The net result of all this was that the airport, environment agency, council and other interested parties thrashed out a plan to protect our drinking water supply, which unless there was some sort of unlikely aviation accident, resulting in a large fuel spillage on the green part of the airport, protected the local water supply quite well.
There was of course one big snag, isn’t there always, this was the airport had to pay for some fairly expensive pluming modifications, fortunately the owners Infratil are a very wealthy and very large company “down Under” so they said “no worries mate” “we won’t pee in your swimming pool if you don’t swim in our toilet” in fact all of the things one would expect and hope for.
Anyway now those nice people at Infratil have said that they don’t want to spend the money because they are selling the airport, see http://thanetonline.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/kent-international-airport-at-manston.html so they will be providing a new plan, which won’t be so good, or so expensive. Something along the lines of we will only pee on your pool a little bit, but we don’t mind if you take the occasional dip in our toilet, I think.