Part of Federal Way sits in the flight path of Sea-Tac Airport, which has caused a lot of concern from residents regarding potential health and safety impacts.
During a New League of Voters Quiet Skies town hall meeting at Highline Performing Arts Center in Burien last Thursday night, regional residents heard from 30th Legislative District Rep. Mike Pellicciotti, Congressman Adam Smith, and others about new legislation to help combat some of these issues.
There were also several city elected officials in the audience, including Federal Way Council members Lydia Assefa-Dawson, Jesse Johnson, Mark Koppang and Deputy Mayor Susan Honda.
The entire Des Moines City Council and mayor were also present, as well as senior staffers, and city representatives from Burien, Normandy Park, SeaTac, along with several Port of Seattle commissioners.
The moderator of the event, Steve Edmiston, said a newer concern residents have is about how damaging aircraft noise it to health.
“It’s not an annoyance, it’s a health issue,” Edmiston said to the crowd.
According to a scientific journal article by Martin Kaltenbach, Christian Maschke, and Rainier Klinke, prolonged exposure to aircraft noise could cause hypertension in individuals, as well as a decrease in academic performance and an increase in academic-related disorders for young students.
Along with the discussion around the harmful noise, the town hall meeting also touched on the pollution that comes along with the increased air traffic.
Edmiston started the meeting with an origin story behind the league.
“It’s ‘Avengers’ weekend, if you’re into these movies everything’s an origin story,” he said to the crowd.
He told his backstory of why this league is important to him, and it all starts with the two big C’s in his life: Cancer. Edmiston was diagnosed with cancer twice, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia. During his battle with leukemia, he stayed at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center for about 100 days, and after he returned one of the first things he said to his wife was: “Where did all these airplanes come from?”
He said it was like being a frog taken out of a boiling pot of water and then being put right back in.
“Absence makes the noise grow louder.”
Congressman Smith, also a leader in the Quiet Skies Caucus in Congress, took time during the meeting to applaud the league’s efforts.
“Please don’t think that what you’re doing doesn’t matter. It matters profoundly and it has an impact,” he said.
Smith said because of the work of the League and Quiet Skies Coalition, more money has been secured for noise mitigation for nearby school districts.
Part of the legislation he introduced was to include a curfew on airplanes coming in to SeaTac, so people wouldn’t be woken up by incoming planes in the late night and early morning hours.
“That is a profound health care impact on people,” Smith said.
Smith is also sponsoring a new piece of legislation, H.R.2351, introduced April 22 that aims to protect airport communities from particle emissions.
Another speaker at the event, Chris McCann, spoke about a website noise complaint button he created called Airnoise.io that allows people to file noise complaints on their phone when they hear airplanes pass overhead. Right now complaints can be sent using SMS text and over the mobile-friendly Airnoise website, and soon will be compatible with iOS and Android in the app store.
Pellicciotti spoke about his recent House Bill 1847 that addresses airplane noise and would allow for the expansion of the mitigation zone for overhead noise. However, the representative said he was disappointed that the house bill was not voted on before the end of the 2019 legislative session.
He noted this bill went father in the session than it has before, which gives him hope for the future.
“This is very important for future legislation on this issue,” Pellicciotti said.
On top of this house bill making it to the Senate floor before it was ultimately killed, a seperate bill, Senate Bill 5370, passed and was sent to Gov. Jay Inslee for signing. That measure would create a commission dedicated to locating a spot for a new airport just outside of King County.
Pellicciotti said, “[This would] reduce the air volume at SeaTac, and allow for commercial and cargo traffic to be flown into other parts of the state instead.”
He said this legislation is a critical step in expanding Paine field in Everrett and air services in Moses Lake.
The benefit of this expansion, Pellicciotti said, is that “over the years as our state grows there will notbe an ever-increasing volume of airplane noise over our community because the air traffic volume can instead be absorbed in other parts of Washington.”
This would reduce the overall noise in Federal Way, he said.
After a small delay, the Federal Way Quiet and Healthy Skies Task Force released their report on airway noise and traffic last August.
During the event, an official with the World Health Organization also gave a presentation about the impacts of noise on the environment.
The League of Quiet Skies Voters’ goal is to “empower voters that live in the shadow of the 8th busiest airport in the United States with information about human health and the environment,” according to the B-Town Blog.
They want voters to know their rights and choices, and also have the confidence to engage with policymakers on this matter.
An edited version of the full League of Quiet Skies Voters Townhall meeting can be found at b-townblog.com.