Stakeholders debate priorities for airport noise mitigation
Representatives of the communities of Burien, Des Moines, Normandy Park, Sea-Tac, Tukwila and Federal Way recently headed to the airport to discuss how to reduce noise pollution.
The third annual meeting of the Sea-Tac Stakeholder Advisory Round Table was held on the evening of Wednesday, June 27. The newly formed group meets every other month.
Aviation director Lance Lyttle started the discussion by pointing out that the past couple of meetings were dedicated to discussion. Now, he said, is a time for action.
“This meeting, and going forward, we want to focus on practical solutions,” he said.
In response, committee members gave impassioned speeches about their concerns and what they’ve heard from their neighbors.
A number of them said that growing airport operations are the elephant in the room.
“We’ve reached our limit,” Earnest Thompson from Normandy Park said. “You need to build another airport outside of this heavily congested area.”
Mark Hoppen, city manager Normandy Park, argued that reduced airport operations should be the focus of the Port of Seattle and the FAA.
Instead, he said community residents are asked to adjust to the flights by insulating against noise and putting zoning in place.
“These are the same old, tired FAA strategies,” he said. “Those things aren’t working well.”
Michael Matthias, city manager of Des Moines, agreed and added that frequency and timing of flights should be the top concern.
“It makes sense to focus on where the problem lies, which is operations,” he said. “We’re suffering from the impacts and we’re supposed to figure out how to mitigate the impacts, even though we’re not the source of the problem. There are operational changes that have to happen.”
John Parness, co-founder of Burien’s Quiet Skies Coalition, offered three suggestions. “Don’t fly your planes over our houses,” he said. “It’s really simple.”
Secondly, he wants to question the Day-Night Average Sound Level or DNL, the measurement used to quantify airport noise. “It has no bearing in reality,” he said.
Parness also wants the group to take a hard look at reverse thrust. “There’s no need to slow down after touchdown,” he said. “It creates a reverberating, drum-like, avalanche of noise. There are alternatives.”
Thompson advocated for bullet trains and a hyperloop as long-term solutions.“We don’t need more studies, endless studies,” he said. “We know it’s bad news. We know this pollution kills.”
Joe Scorcio, city manager of SeaTac, asked to find out more about more noise attenuation and noise cancelation options. “These technologies are out there,” he said. “It’s feasible.”
Ken Rogers, a Des Moines resident, asked that the airport push itself to ensure best practices are in place.
“Are we doing the best we can do?” he asked. “What can we improve? Where is there room left to make incremental progress?”
Tejvir Basra, a business owner in SeaTac, wants to see cities take zoning into consideration. “We’re knowingly putting people in harm’s way,” he said.
He said that people move to Seattle and buy affordable houses that end up being in a flight path.
“Then this becomes their big problem,” he said. “New homes shouldn’t be built in the flight path where the noise is so bad you can’t make a phone call.”
Sheila Brush, founder of Quiet Skies Puget Sound, said that action is imperative. She stressed that noise pollution is just part of the problem. She said health impacts, economic effects, air pollution, quality of life and risk management should also be considered.
After committee members spoke, the meeting was opened to public comment.
Larry Cripe, president of Quiet Skies Coalition in Burien, said that by increasing traffic in the air the airport created a fourth runway.
“You’re using it on a daily basis without pouring a foot of concrete,” he said.
Cripe said that the FAA and the airlines should sit down at the table for discussions.
“If not, the citizens of this community are gaining strength every day and they’re going to start hearing from us,” he said.
Jean Hilde-Fulghum, a Shoreline resident, said that while she is 25 miles north of SeaTac, flights have been more frequently disturbing her in her home.
“We in the north-end have witnessed those changes, and they are not good,” she said. “About three years ago, what had been a half-dozen planes a day turned into, seemingly overnight, a jet aircraft roaring overhead literally every 30 to 60 seconds, for hours at a time with no silence in between.”
Hilde-Fulghum said that she is no longer able to work in her garden because of the noise and has to wear earplugs even inside her home.
“This unjust noise dumping has robbed us of the peace of our own homes and yards,” she said. “The DNL metric the FAA uses to measure noise is meaningless, as every single airplane is a distinctive, loud, disruption to our lives. Averaging those disruptions is just a way to make the victim look crazy.”
Burien’s Debbi Wagner said she moved from the flight path twice. “It moved back to me,” she said. “I don’t want to be a victim.”
She has studied the health risks associated with airports for herbook “Over My Head.”
Lyttle encouraged committee members to choose their top three priorities and then form smaller work groups to determine the next course of action.
“We don’t want to wait until every other month to work on something,” he said.
Once the committee zeros in on possible actions, he said that the airport will reach out to elected officials and experts on the subject. “We don’t want to take problems to them,” he said. “We want to take solutions to them, so they can act on it.”
The next meeting is slated for Aug. 22. For more information, visit www.portseattle.org/page/sea-tac-airport-stakeholder-advisory-round-table