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    HomeNewsNavy Jet Noise on Whidbey Island: A Public Health Risk Study Reveals

    Navy Jet Noise on Whidbey Island: A Public Health Risk Study Reveals

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    Boeing EA-18G Growler of United States Navy

    A recent study from the University of Washington has shed light on the potential public health hazards due to intense jet noise experienced by the residents of Whidbey Island, Washington.

    According to the lead author Gio Jacuzzi, a graduate student at the UW College of Environment, the noise levels exceeded 100 decibels for residents of Oak Harbor, Coupeville, and 85% of the Swinomish Reservation, equivalent to the volume of a rock concert.

    This research has amplified concerns about the long-standing issue of military jet noise in the area, which has been a subject of local and legal disputes.

    The jet noise, which can occur any hour of the day or night, has been linked to serious health risks, including sleep disturbance, hearing impairment, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and delays in childhood learning.

    The study, encompassing data from the Navy, a private acoustics company, and the National Park Service, highlights that approximately two-thirds of Island County’s population is affected by this noise pollution.

    The jets are based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

    Navy spokesperson Michael Welding has emphasized the importance of the trainings conducted at the station, which has been operational since 1942 and welcomed the Navy’s inaugural Growler production aircraft in 2008, despite enduring years of disagreements regarding the noise levels.

    As per the study, around 41,000 residents have trouble sleeping, and about 8,000, mainly those living near the landing strips, are at risk of hearing impairment over time.

    Navy protocol of refraining from commenting on issues under legal proceedings, as the station is currently embroiled in a lawsuit filed in 2019 by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve.

    This legal action was initiated following the station’s escalation of jet flights by approximately 33%.

    While a U.S. District Court judge ruled in September of last year that the station could maintain its flight frequency, it was mandated to revise its environmental impact assessment due to inadequate quantification of the overall noise effects. The process of revising the environmental impact survey is still underway.

    Community members have vividly described the disruptive nature of the jet noise. For example, Bob Wilbur, chair of the Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve group, explains how the noise affects daily life, making communication difficult and compelling residents to organize their schedules around the jets’ flight times.

    Another resident equated the experience to being in a war zone.

    In their opinion piece, Jacuzzi and the other authors of the study called on the Navy to contemplate modifications to its training activities and timetables, asserting that such adjustments could showcase that national security concerns do not have to conflict with safeguarding the well-being of the local community.

    “This doesn’t have to be a situation where one side wins at the expense of the other,” Jacuzzi remarked. “There are various options available to address these public health issues — ranging from adjusting flight routes to implementing more strategic operational timetables, or even considering avoiding critical periods or areas, such as school hours and nighttime hours.”

    Relevant articles:
    Navy Jet Noise Could Mean Long-Term Health Impacts for Whidbey Island, aviationpros.com
    Navy Jet Noise in Washington State Could Have Long-Term Health Impacts, newsbreak.com
    Navy Growler jet noise over Washington state’s Whidbey Island could impact 74,000 people’s health, Medical Xpress
    UW study finds health implications from Growler noise, Whidbey News-Times

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