Judge orders Denver International Airport to pay $33.5 million for noise violations

Photo courtesy Denver International Airport

Photo courtesy Denver International Airport

DENVER (KDVR) — Susan Claassen has lived two distinct lives since moving into her Adams County home 45 years ago: life before Denver International Airport and life after the airport opened.

“We were one of the first houses out here. We had peace and quiet and all of a sudden, DIA came and all hell broke loose,” she said.

Since 1995, the buzz of airplanes has been an almost constant soundtrack to Claassen’s life.

“I’m getting used to it, but I don’t think I should have to get used to it,” Claassen said.

Twenty-five years later, a Denver District Court judge agrees, ruling the airport breached an agreement that Adams County made with Denver when DIA was built.

Adams County allowed Denver to annex the 53 square miles the airport is built on, so long as Denver monitored and limited noise coming from DIA.

In 2018, Adams County took Denver to court, arguing DIA relies on imprecise modeling rather than actual ground measurements to gauge airport noise.

“We get complaints about noise all the time. It was hard for us to validate some of those complaints in the past,” said Adams County Commissioner Steve O’Dorisio.

The judge ordered Denver to pay $33.5 million for 67 documented noise violations — $500,000 per violation.

That’s music to the ears of Claassen and others who lived near the land that is now DIA, long before the airport was built, and know how quiet their subdivision once was.

“The other people here don’t realize what a pain this is,” Claassen said.

DIA says it is disappointed in the ruling and is considering next steps. Denver city leaders have not said whether those next steps will include an appeal.

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