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Federal Way faces harsh reality with airport noise
For residents of the Marine Hills neighborhood, the noise generated by flights arriving and departing Sea-Tac International Airport has become a fact of life, albeit an unwanted one.
After years of hemming and hawing from both the Port of Seattle and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), it appears Federal Way residents have reached the end of their rope.
During a Port of Seattle commissioners meeting last Tuesday at Federal Way City Hall, city officials and residents said their lives are disrupted by the comings and goings of airplanes at Sea-Tac.
One of the topics presented at Tuesday’s meeting was the proposed Part 150 noise reduction plan that the Port has been working on since 2009. A preliminary information session at the meeting shared the proposals for the new plan.
The most important change being proposed is the boundary of “noise contour maps.” Currently, under a boundary established in 1985, Federal Way is excluded from being eligible for noise mitigation assistance from the Port and FAA.
Under the new boundary proposed in the study, that noise contour map would be reduced even further, meaning assistance for Federal Way residents will be even more difficult to obtain.
Federal Way City Councilwoman Linda Kochmar vented her frustration at the apparent indifference shown by the Port and the FAA when it comes to Federal Way’s noise concerns.
“When we have asked for some recognition of our problems, we have received nothing. Zero. Nada,” she said. “Nothing at all for all of these years. (You’ve) worked with the city of Sea-Tac, the city of Tukwila, the city of Des Moines, Highline School District, Burien, they’ve all received insulation. They’ve all received recognition. They’ve all received whatever from the Port.”
Kochmar referenced the endless back and forth handling Federal Way has received from the Port and FAA when Federal Way officials and residents express their concerns over the noise issues. Along with that, Kochmar shared that residents who live in areas where the flight paths and water intersect are virtually prisoners in their own homes.
“In one area, you’ll have some of those people who live along the water whose children are afraid to go outside their homes to play. They can’t hear to talk on their deck, they can’t hear to talk on their phones. I know one particular person who sold their house and quietly moved away.”
Kochmar touched on a few other issues that are adding to the noise problems experienced by residents. She said one issue may be that planes are not following the full parameters of their approaches and take-offs to the airport, causing noise over parts of the city, particularly at the intersection of Pacific Highway and 320th Street. Outside of that, the departures of EVA Airline flights at approximately 2 a.m. are affecting the quality of life for residents, she said.
“We need some relief. We’ve been waiting many, many, many years and received nothing,” she said. “No insulation, nothing to help our citizens. We’re demanding it now.”
Federal Way resident Nancy Combs echoed many of Kochmar’s sentiments.
“I’ve lived here for over 50 years. This has gotten out of hand. I have called you guys, and these are just some of all the things that the airport has sent me back,” she said, holding a fistful of letters. “’Oh yes, we recognize your problem,’ but when I asked them what are you going to do about it, ‘Well, you don’t live close enough to the airport.’”
Combs said she has taken on the costs of trying to insulate her house for noise herself, indicating she’s installed windows and new insulation, and had her roof replaced. None of it has been effective, she said, because when flights pass overhead, her house “shakes like an earthquake.”
“I expect you to do something now,” Combs said. “We’ve waited too many years.”
The proposed Part 150 study is still under review. One more public meeting is scheduled for residents of all impacted communities, most likely in the late fall, according to Port spokesperson Perry Cooper. For more information on the Part 150 noise study, visit www.airportsites.net/Sea-Part150.