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WESTFIELD — Arriving alongside a new squadron of fighter jets at Barnes Air National Guard Base are questions about noise and pollution.

North Side resident Rose Kim, commenting on the current noise level at the airport, said it has affected the quality of life for her relatives over the last 20 years. Other speakers asked if the military would help with soundproofing their homes.

The Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Wing is scheduled to receive F-35A jets in 2026 to replace its current F-15C aircraft, which are being retired. The newer planes are louder, according to an environmental impact statement prepared by the military and discussed at a virtual public hearing March 5.

Christopher Willenborg, who manages the civilian side of Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport, said the airport plans to restart its noise mitigation program in May, now that it has filed an updated noise plan with the Federal Aviation Administration. It is the FAA, not the military, that would work with local communities on that program.

When city resident Estelle Streeter spoke during the hearing, she voiced her concern about maintaining the aquifer that provides water to the city and underlies the airport.

“Nothing should go in the aquifer,” she said, adding that she also wanted to know if there were mitigation measures for those who house animals in the elevated noise zone.

Thomas Knoth spoke to support the new squadron being based at Barnes, pointing to the base’s role in the country’s national security and the potential economic benefits of additional employees that will accompany the new jets.

On Tuesday, March 19, beginning at 5 p.m., military officials will host an in-person public hearing at Westfield Intermediate School on Southampton Road. Again, they will answer questions and take comments on the draft environmental report.

According to the draft report, basing the F-35A at Barnes means 1,288 additional acres of off-airport property will be exposed to 65 decibels of the day-night average sound level, or DNL. That additional acreage includes 267 homes and 779 additional people.

Daily sorties of jets taking off and landing at Barnes generally occur between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., though the 104th Fighter Wing occasionally conducts night operations.

There would also be “significant” noise levels for another 1,314 households and 3,618 people in areas farther afield from the airport, including the flightpaths.

The effects on airspace and air quality, and their effect on climate change, would not be significant, according to the draft. It did find that based on the airport area’s demographics, children under age 18 and elderly residents would be “disproportionately impacted” by the noise from the new jets.

Among the properties that would be exposed to high noise were several residential lots. The report found the F-35A would yield a DNL of 75-80 decibels for 2 acres of residential land, along with 70-75 decibels for 109 acres and 65-70 decibels for 449 acres.

“Under the F-35A, significant impacts would also occur to recreational land uses associated with the North Road Recreational Area, where 6 acres would be newly exposed to 75-80 dB DNL noise contours,” according to the draft.

Written comments may be submitted in person at the public meetings, or to ngb.a4.a4a.nepa.comments.org@us.af.mil, or by mail to William Strickland, EIS Project Manager, National Guard Bureau, NGB/A4AM, Shepperd Hall, 3501 Fetchet Ave., Joint Base Andrews, MD 20762-5157. Comments must be received by April 5.

The draft environmental impact statement is available for reading at the Westfield Athenaeum, the mayor’s office at Westfield City Hall, the airport manager’s office at Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport, and online at www.angf15ex-f35a-eis.com.

cclark@thereminder.com | + posts