Will we have to leave our home? | Guest column

Submitted by Quiet Skies Over San Juan County

People ask south end Lopez residents, “Are you going to leave your home because of the health impacts caused by the practices of the EA-18G Growler?” Since the Navy’s proposal to add 36 more Growler jets at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (NASWI)—increasing their training activity by 47 percent—anxious dread and depression have seized many citizens of Lopez Island.

Over the years, we have lived as neighbors to NASWI with the Prowler jet practices. Entering operational service in 2009, the EA-18G Growler is the replacement for the EA-6B Prowler. The aircraft is powered by two General Electric F414-GE-400 afterburning turbofan engines, each providing 22,000 pounds of thrust, creating the thunderous roar and vibration across the water. When the Growler engages in FCLP’s (field carrier landing practices), OLF Coupeville and Ault Field function as an aircraft carrier landing deck where the jets touch down and take off for hours on end. These ongoing blasts (often between 70 – 95 dBC inside homes) shatter the mental health and well-being of those who hear it.

How do you measure sound that impacts the mental and physical health of those subjected to it? As pointed out in earlier Quiet Skies articles, the Navy is not using proper scientific tools to substantiate the true impact of Growler noise on people’s health.

Hearing is our only sense that detects 360 degrees around us. We cannot escape it. Anacortes Doctor Jay Ham, who has extensively studied the DEIS comments, claims “the DEIS authors state that non-auditory health effects secondary to aircraft noise and overflight are ‘inconclusive’ (p. 338.)” However, most medical professionals, including Dr. Ham, disagree with this and feel peer reviewed medical studies confirm many health consequences.

Upon hearing the Growlers, have you felt shaky or nauseous? Have you felt fearful, with a sense of dread or depression?

Audiologist Marianne Brabanski, in her paper “Noise Associated with Aircraft Operations,” claims that the anticipation and actual noise emitted by the Growlers have a significant impact on our digestive system. When the brain is stressed, it unleashes hormones putting the digestive system in an uproar that can create irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, heartburn, and ulcerative colitis.

While the DEIS admits that low frequency vibration may affect structures, it ignores the possible effects of low frequency vibration exposure on human health. Whole-body vibration causes fatigue, insomnia, stomach problems, headache and “shakiness” shortly after or during exposure. The symptoms are similar to what people experience after a long car or boat trip. Researchers call this “vibration sickness.”

Dr. Ham states that the repeated ripping, thunderous sounds from the Growler cause a “Startle Reaction” that resonates deep inside our organs. Some military veterans on Lopez say this triggers a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) response. For many, the “Startle Reaction” can create loss of mental concentration and control; anxiety, stress, or “nervous breakdown”; hypertension that could lead to a heart attack and stroke; sleep disturbances which may cause or exacerbate many of the other medical consequences; speech and performance interference; and noise induced hearing loss.

How long can we endure this noise while the Navy practices so near our home? The noise has driven people from living on the south end of Lopez. The value of our property has gone down and realtors have a disclosure form for real estate transactions that include Whidbey Island jet noise. The introduction of 36 more Growlers will further destroy the experience of living in a place where the natural world is treasured.

Tell the Navy they must perform an improved survey to verify the health impacts from being subjected to Growler noise. Dr. Ham suggests it is reasonable to compare results in a high impact area such as OLF Coupeville with a non- impacted area such as Bow/Edison, WA. It is probable that such a comparison would confirm health impacts resulting from the Navy’s Growler operations.

Please submit your comments to the Navy on their Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by February 24th. Instructions on how to submit are at: https://goo.gl/9FDqeh.