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Guest Commentary / Navy jets

Noise a health, safety and economic issue

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By Robert Wilbur
Gale Fiege did a good job preparing her Sept. 9 article on the Coupeville Outlying Field. ("Camano Islanders split over Navy jet noise"). What she and many OLF supporters do not understand is the impact on life that folks actually living under the OLF practice path cope with.
Most folks hearing jets crossing at high altitude (one here or there, maybe at 60-75 decibels) are proud to be home to the Navy and wonder what the big deal is. Here are some facts that might help them understand the deal:
1) The OLF practice path is basically a tight circle with two to five jets going around in a constant loop with a practice landing in the middle (i.e., touch down and immediate take off) of each loop. With four jets flying, about 15 seconds elapse between jets crossing overhead. Those jets will go around for about 35 minutes and then leave, but soon follows the next group of jets.
2) Yes, many folks living under the OLF path did sign notices about jet noise, but that notice provided not even an inkling of what the impact might be, so many trusted and were duped. And what about the 33 percent of Coupeville residents who didn't sign the notice?
3) The undisclosed impact hidden in that notice is hours upon hours of life-straining noise from the 80 decibel range between jets overhead to highs of 115-120 decibels 15 seconds later as the next jet passes, creating a constant noise cycle. Anything requiring hearing is impossible other than yelling to one's family.
4) Every three decibel increase doubles sound intensity. So, jet sound at 120 decibels is over 8,000 times as intense as at 80 decibels. Sound intensity is the cause of hearing loss. The EPA and NIOSH agree that sound at the levels folks under the OLF path experience (i.e., 110-120 decibels) causes permanent hearing loss in a matter of seconds, as supported by the World Health Organization. Those claiming no impact, are just uninformed or would rather play make-believe.
6) The jets are dumping fuel all over folks living under the OLF path at way lower altitude than allowed. Jet fuel is highly toxic stuff -- benzene and toluene. (Carcinogenic? Quite likely.) Dumping is happening, but it isn't even mentioned in that noise disclosure notice; after all who would gamble with their health when you could buy a home where you don't get regularly slimed with jet fuel. Nor, incredibly, does the notice mention the crash risks.
7) Folks can move. Yes, and suffer huge losses, not only going in and out of a home purchase but now especially, because buyers are beginning to learn the full extent of jet impacts on life. How long before areas become de facto ghost neighborhoods with a few stragglers? As one renter told me as she was moving out, "I wouldn't stay here if the rent was free!"
Let me ask you this: If you knew all of those facts, would you buy a home under the OLF shadow? No?
So now let me ask you this: Assuming the Navy could move it's touch-and-go practice to a 21st century location that provided what the pilots really deserve to have (which assuredly it can), then why in the world would you want to keep the OLF, a World War II relic, in Coupeville, continuing to plague families and children to documented life-damaging risk (unless, of course, you are one of those who loves jets more than people)?

Robert Wilbur lives in Coupeville.

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