Feel the rumble? | Guest column

Submitted by Quiet Skies Over San Juan County

The Navy is proposing to add 36 more Growler jets at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (NASWI). According to its analysis training activity over our skies would increase by 47 percent.

For many in San Juan County, the rumble is already intolerable. It’s hard to imagine how it can get even worse. The question is, what can we do about it? The most important action now is to submit comments to the Navy on its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Comments are due by Feb. 24.

According to the Navy website, “The Growler is recognizable by the low frequency ‘rumble’ of its jet engines.” Despite this acknowledgment, low-frequency noise impacts are ignored in the EIS section on noise. Our experience is that the overwhelming low-frequency rumble can be felt as well as heard.

Why is this important? The World Health Organization (WHO) “Guidelines on Community Noise” states: “The evidence on [health impacts of] low-frequency noise is sufficiently strong to warrant immediate concern.”

Low-frequency noise travels further than higher frequencies. It penetrates through windows and doors as if they were open. The Navy analysis concludes, without any scientific evidence, that Growler noise impacts are much lower outdoors in San Juan County and inside our homes.

Airport noise studies typically focus on hearing loss and annoyance. It limits attention to frequencies where human hearing is most sensitive and intentionally filters out lower frequencies. This is called “A-weighting.”

The section in the draft EIS on noise and vibration acknowledges that Growlers produce extreme levels of low-frequency noise. Shockingly, this information is ignored in all of the Navy’s analyses.

Again, from WHO, “Since A-weighting underestimates the sound pressure level of noise with low-frequency components, a better assessment of health effects would be to use C‑weighting.” Often used in industrial noise measurement, C-weighting includes the lower frequencies.

In sum, the signature noise from the Growler jet is its low-frequency rumble and roar that penetrates homes and travels long distances. Noise is not measured in the draft EIS, and the computer modeling is flawed. For more information on this issue see Comment 1 in a paper developed by Quiet Skies, https://goo.gl/y35vlP.

Tell the Navy it needs to redo their analysis to include the lower frequencies. Here are instructions on how to submit comments https://goo.gl/9FDqeh.

Next week we will discuss health impacts of jet noise.