Whidbey Island residents say Navy jet noise is a 'toxic health hazard'


WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. -- Is jet noise a toxic health hazard? That's what neighbors of the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station told a state panel of doctors.

The complaints come just as the military plans to expand training areas throughout the state.

People who live in the Ebey Reserve, which is beneath the training ground for the Navy's 82 Growler jets, have been complaining about the noise for years. Now, in an unusual move, they've taken their complaints to the Washington Board of Health after the Island County Board of Health didn't take action.

"The noise of the jets is actually a hundred million times louder than crickets singing on a summer night," said neighbor Mary Anne Atwood.

Neighbors such as Ken Pickard believe the panel of doctors have a moral obligation to investigate the noise as a health issue.

"It's being totally ignored by every public official and public body and elected official from the City of Coupeville to the Pentagon," Pickard said. "This amount of noise is toxic, it's extremely dangerous to people's health and action needs to be taken."

The Navy is considering expanding the number of jets stationed at Whidbey Island from 82 to 118, which would mean more training flights over the neighborhood and the nearby San Juan Islands.

The Navy is also asking for a permit from the Forest Service to install electronic warfare beacons on the western slope of the Olympics in the national park.

"It's a cat and mouse game," said Ron Richards, chair of the Save the Olympics Preserve. "They want to detect them with their electronic warfare aircraft and then they want to try and disable them."

That would mean jets flying over the northwest part of the state, which Richards said isn't a good thing for the "pristine national parks in the country."

Joint Base Lewis McChord is also looking for new training ground for its 130 helicopters. Earlier this year, after sites in the North Cascades were identified, 2,300 public comments led JBLM leaders to scrap those locations. Base officials are still looking for locations.

The Navy had planned to release an important environmental impact report on its expansion this summer, but the study has been delayed until the fall.

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