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Amazon Prime cargo hub at CVG Airport, Kentucky, USA


Description:

Complaints about blasting works at the construction site of an Amazon air cargo hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport (CVG) were reported in February 2020. Don Jones, president of a heating business, living less than a mile away from the site, said the foundations of his business premises were crumbling due to the blasting, which had been occurring every day since mid-2019.[1] More than a dozen homeowners living near the Amazon air cargo hub site said that construction works by Trumbull Corporation had caused ‘irreversible damage’ to their basements, roofs, drywall, flooring and stairs. Resident Kelly Brock said, “You can feel the entire house shake” and that blasting was affecting a larger area than acknowledged. Another resident, Lauri Mayleben, said residents were never notified that the blasting would occur. She requested blasting records from Trumbull but did not receive the information.

Fiscal Court Judge Gary Moore stated that the Boone County government has no control over the project and was also not informed about the blasting. He said calls about the blasting had also been received from production and commercial businesses. John Mura, Executive Director of Kentucky Department of Natural Resources, said he was aware of residents’ complaints and explained that seismograph readings from November and December 2019 were within regulatory limits.[2]

Class action lawsuit

Trees were cleared along Limaburg Creek road for the project. On 27th May 2020 two residents, Andrew Vance and Greg Dringenburg, filed a complaint in Boone County Court against construction firm Whiting-Turner, seeking to allow residents living within one mile of the construction project to join a class action lawsuit against the contractors building the Amazon Air Hub. The complaint alleged that dust had not been properly controlled at the site and that blasting had created excessive shock waves. Representing the plaintiffs, attorney Philip Taliaferro said, “This lawsuit, it is really the last resort for the residents there, because they’ve complained multiple times to the contractors and elected officials and state…But the blasting and dust and dirt have continued.” He said parents had complained of blasting making their children stressed and that the people taking the legal action were asking for punitive damages.[3]

Taliaferro, who had represented residents affected by CVG for over 50 years, since the airport acquired property, said it was the biggest case he had ever taken on “You have this much dust, this much dirt, this much noise. Breaking parts of your house. Upsetting everyone. I’ve never had or seen anything like this before.” He said that the suit states that those working on the Amazon air hub project have “been well aware of these conditions for many months”. Release of state documents revealed a history of citations and inspections of companies working at the site. Homeowner Richard Ison said affected residents had exhausted all other options: “You call the city officials. They say they’ll try to help. They contact Amazon and Kokosing (Construction). Nobody can seem to get anything done.”[4]

The class action complaint claims that contractors Whiting-Turner and Kokosing showed reckless disregard for people, children and animals. It states that earthmoving ‘creates an extraordinary amount of dust if not properly controlled, especially in dry weather’ and that ‘blasting creates excessive shock waves which if not properly controlled and minimized, cause significant vibrations at properties surrounding the Amazon project’. It also states that failure to properly monitor and control the activities of contractors at the Amazon project had subjected the plaintiffs to ‘excessive dust, excessive blasting noise, and heavy equipment noise for more than one year, and the nuisance conditions continue unabated’.[5]

Construction worker killed

On 2nd February 2020 an ironworker working at the Amazon air hub project was killed in a workplace accident. The 46-year old man, Loren Shoemake, died from blunt force trauma. He was an employee of subcontractor Columbus Steel Erectors. An airport spokesperson said CVG first responders were dispatched to the scene at 12.44 pm after receiving a call about a workplace injury. Neither the airport nor the general contractor, Whiting-Turner Kokosing JV, provided additional details of the injury but the latter said a full investigation was underway and that OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) investigators were on site.[6] Dave Baker of trade union Ironworkers Local 44 said Shoemake was the steward on the job installing steel at the air hub site and was doing “a damn good job”. He said the workplace accident was the first to result in a fatality for over 15 years. Baker’s team at the trade union created a commemorative badge honouring Loren Shoemake, to be handed out at a ceremony the following day commemorating his life. Loren Shoemake was survived by his fiancée and daughter.[7]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Amazon Prime cargo hub at CVG Airport, Kentucky, USA
Country:United States of America
State or province:Kentucky
Location of conflict:Boone Country
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Ports and airport projects
Specific commodities:Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

In January 2017 Amazon signed a long-term lease with CVG to develop an air cargo hub. The lease involved airport land that Amazon had rented for at least 50 years. In exchange Amazon received $40 million in state and local tax incentives for the project and an additional $5 million from the airport. In January 2018 Amazon acquired a further 85 hectares of land for the air cargo hub.[8] Site preparation activity and ground-breaking for Phase 1, on land immediately south of the airport, began in spring 2019. The Amazon Air Hub project is supported by the State of Kentucky and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The project investment is $1.5 billion. The ‘South development’ area covers approximately 263 hectares of land and is scheduled for completion in 2021. Project plans include 74,000 square meters of sort facility and auxiliary buildings and 24 aircraft parking positions enabling Amazon to operate up to 32 aircraft out of CVG with a total of 64 daily flights. Full build out of the South development increases the sort facility and auxiliary building area to 240,000 square meters and the number of aircraft parking positions to 100 and is scheduled for completion in 2026. A 192 hectare land parcel is earmarked for a ‘North development option’.[9] According to a Bloomberg Business News article Amazon’s new hub at CVG, able to accommodate as many as 200 flights per day, ‘appears to be the linchpin to Amazon’s efforts to develop a comprehensive array of domestic delivery services’, providing a central hub enabling the firm to compete with ‘entrenched players’, i.e. UPS and FedEx.[10] Facilities for sorting and transshipping to distant cities will enable CVG to become Amazon Air’s ‘superhub’. The State of Kentucky is building a new interchange on the Interstate-275 (I-275) highway to support the Amazon Air hub at CVG.[11]

Project area:455.3
Level of Investment for the conflictive project1,500,000,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:05/02/2020
Company names or state enterprises:Amazon from United States of America - Developer of air cargo hub
Whiting-Turner from United States of America - Contracted to build Amazon cargo hub at CVG Airport, joint venture with Kokosing Construction Company
Kokosing Construction Company from United States of America - Contracted to build Amazon cargo hub at CVG Airport, joint venture with Whiting-Turner
Columbus Steel Erectors from United States of America - Subcontractor working on Amazon air hub project at CNG
Trumbull Corporation from United States of America - Construction works including blasting
Relevant government actors:Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) - https://www.cvgairport.com/
State of Kentucky
Kentucky Energy and Environmental Cabinet
Kentucky Department of Natural Resources
Boone County
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
Kenton County Airport Board
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Ironworkers Local 44 - https://ironworkers44.com

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Industrial workers
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
trade union Ironworkers Local 44 (workplace accident)
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Global warming, Oil spills, Other Environmental impacts, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Soil erosion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Other Environmental impactsDust and damage to buildings from blasting works
Health ImpactsVisible: Deaths, Occupational disease and accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsOn 2nd February 2020 an ironworker working at the Amazon air hub project was killed in a workplace accident. The 46-year old man, Loren Shoemake, died from blunt force trauma.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place

Outcome

Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (undecided)
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Reports of residents and businesses complaining about dust, noise and excessive shock waves from the construction site of the Amazon ar hub were reported in the press February 2020 but people had reported problems since mid-2019. Repeated incidences of damage to buildings and prolonged stress from dust and noise were not addressed and two residents resorted to a lawsuit seeking to allow residents living within one mile of the project to file a class action lawsuit seeking punitive damages.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[5] Class action lawsuit filed for homeowners near Amazon air hub construction site at CVG Airport, 26th May 2020
https://www.scribd.com/document/463316258/Andrew-Vance-and-Greg-Dringenburg-v-Whiting-Turner-Kokosing-Joint-Venture#fullscreen&from_embed

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[11] Joseph P Schweitwerman and Jacob Wells, Insights into Amazon Air: 2020’s Transportation Juggernaut, Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development, 22 May 2020
https://las.depaul.edu/centers-and-institutes/chaddick-institute-for-metropolitan-development/research-and-publications/Documents/Amazon%20Air%20Policy%20Brief%20final.pdf

[1] Businesses and homeowners blame structural damage on Amazon hub construction blasting, WCPO, 5 February 2020
https://www.wcpo.com/news/local-news/boone-county/burlington/businesses-and-homeowners-blame-structural-damage-on-amazon-hub-construction-blasting

[2] Burlington residents: Detonations at Amazon Air Hub construction site damaging homes, Cincinnati Enquirer, 17 February 2020
https://eu.cincinnati.com/story/news/2020/02/04/burlington-residents-blasting-amazon-construction-site-damages-homes/4653319002/

[3] Court complaint seeks class-action lawsuit against Amazon Prime Air contractors at CVG, Cincinnati Enquirer, 27 May 2020
https://eu.cincinnati.com/story/news/local/boone-county/2020/05/27/residents-sue-amazon-contractors-blasting-dust-cvg-cincinnati-northern-kentucky-airport/5267016002/

[4] ‘It’s been a nightmare’: Class action lawsuit takes on blasting at Amazon construction site, WCPO, 28 May 2020
https://www.wcpo.com/news/region-northern-kentucky/its-been-a-nightmare-class-action-lawsuit-takes-on-blasting-at-amazon-site

[6] Worker killed at $1.5B Amazon airport project in Kentucky, Construction Dive, 3 February 2020
https://www.constructiondive.com/news/worker-killed-at-15b-amazon-airport-project-in-kentucky/571534/

[8] Amazon buys 210 acres of land for its new cargo jet fleet hub (Video), The Business Journals, 12 January 2018
https://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/news/2018/01/12/amazon-buys-210-acres-prime-air-cargo-jet-hub-cvg.html

[9] Amazon Air Hub at CVG, CVG Airport
https://www.cvgairport.com/about/next/amazon-and-cvg/amazonatcvg

[10] Amazon Prime Air will grow to 200 planes, rival UPS, study says, Bloomberg, 22 May 2020
https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/amazon-prime-air-will-grow-to-200-planes-rival-ups-study-says-1.1440054

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[7] NKY union leader calls worker who died building Amazon's Prime Air hub at CVG Airport a 'great guy', WLWT, 3 February 2020
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=550eJdRtEvY

Emails shed light on Amazon hub blasting damage to people's homes and businesses, WCPO 9, 3 March 2020
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dFxbNcNR60

Residents say homes damaged due to blasting at Amazon construction site, LOCAL 21, 7 February 2020
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDueDUNEd3g

Video showing trees cleared between 2015 and 2019 for Amazon Air hub at CVG Airport, The Environmental Impact of Amazon's 1-Day Shipping, NKY DIY, 8 July 2019
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxG0ES2TWlk

History of citations and inspections related to claims by home and business owners that blasting at Amazon's air hub construction site damaged their property without warning

Ky. documents show history of citations, inspections at Amazon air hub site, WCPO 9, 2 April 2020
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtYUL6gxaIA&t=150s

Meta information

Contributor:Rose Bridger, Stay Grounded, [email protected]
Last update13/08/2020
Conflict ID:5078

Images

 

Trees cleared for Amazon air hub

Farmhouse and barn in zone of cleared trees where Amazon is preparing to build an air cargo hub. Photo: The Enquirer/Chris Mayhew, 3 April 2019 https://eu.cincinnati.com/story/news/local/boone-county/2020/05/27/residents-sue-amazon-contractors-blasting-dust-cvg-cincinnati-northern-kentucky-airport/5267016002/

Map of Amazon Air CVG hub

Map showing Amazon Air CVG hub development areas. Source: CVG Airport https://www.cvgairport.com/about/next/amazon-and-cvg/amazonatcvg

Artist's rendering of CVG hub

Artist's rendering of Amazon Prime Air cargo hub upon completion in 2021. Source: Amazon https://eu.cincinnati.com/story/news/local/boone-county/2020/05/27/residents-sue-amazon-contractors-blasting-dust-cvg-cincinnati-northern-kentucky-airport/5267016002/

Blasting works at air hub site

Blasting works at Amazon air hub construction site, CVG Airport. Photo: WCPO 6, 28th May 2020 https://twitter.com/WCPO/status/1265840216650084353