Adams County Wins $33 Million From DIA Over How Airport Measures Noise Levels

An airliner lands at Denver International Airport
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
An airliner lands at Denver International Airport Friday evening, April 17, 2020.

A judge ruled last week that Denver International Airport must pay Adams County $33.5 million in a disagreement over how the airport was monitoring noise levels.

Adams County sued DIA in 2018, arguing it was underestimating noise levels because it was using a modeling system and not an actual noise monitoring system.

That violated an agreement between the two parties from 1988, where Adams County allowed Denver to annex land for the airport in exchange for Denver's promise to monitor and limit noise levels, Jefferson County District Judge Christie A. Bachmeyer wrote in a 41-page order. That agreement also included a $500,000 fine for every unaddressed noise violation of more than 2 decibels over the limit.

"We're obligated to uphold the agreement from 1988, and that includes standing up for the neighborhoods that may have been experiencing noise above the permitted amounts," said Adams County Commissioner Steve O'Dorisio.

But DIA does have an actual noise monitoring system, and Adams County paid an outside expert to analyze data collected from it. The judge agreed with the county's expert who found 67 noise violations from 2014 to 2016. And the judge added them up to $33.5 million.

"We are disappointed in this decision and are considering next steps," a DIA spokesperson wrote in an email.

The judge turned down Adams County's request for more noise monitors to be installed.

O'Dorisio, the Adams County Commissioner, said it was too early to know whether people living in the area should expect any major changes to noise levels as a result of the ruling. And he couldn't say how the county would use the $33.5 million.

"But we will continue to work with Denver International Airport to mitigate some of the noise complaints that we get," he said.