The physical and psychological harm done by the jet noise on Whidbey Island is far greater than at any other military installation. People who are repeatedly subjected to frightening noise over which they feel they have no control have more severe physical reactions than people who choose the same noise experience. The unique circumstances here, created by the Navy and local real estate and political interests, have, for many, made the noise here much more difficult to bear.
Noise can go far beyond “annoying” – so much so that it is routinely used as torture against enemy combatants during wartime and can make an existing health condition life-threatening. Barry Manilow and Sesame Street music were used as torture at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. A heart condition that is worsened by noise annoyance is more serious than incremental ear damage.
Each person experiences noise annoyance differently. The same jet noise that could be perceived as enjoyable by one person (the sound of freedom, jets=jobs), could be psychologically painful and cause stress-induced health issues for another. Many area buyers pay hundreds and even thousands of dollars more each month for a comparable house without the jets – if they can afford it, and, if given a choice.
Noise annoyance resulting in stress can come from 1) lack of control, 2) repetition, and 3) feelings toward the source of the noise.
Lack of Control
Attendance at a rock concert with a favorite group preforming is enjoyable. A recording of the same concert, played at full volume when you don’t want to hear it, can be stressful. Police are sent to respond to music complaints routinely.
Many people knowingly bought homes under the jets and feel themselves in control of their noise environment because they chose to live there. They might see them as an awesome reminder of the power and tradition of the US Navy and/or as the reason they were able to buy a better home at a much lower price.
Other buyers, unaware of the jets when they bought and not provided with adequate disclosure, feel helpless. Soon after buying, they learned that all aspects of their lives are dictated by the Navy’s choice for when, how loud, and how low the planes fly. They feel control was denied to them because they were not informed about the noise before buying, and their frustration increased when they learned that telling them had been required by law.
Of course most of these people wanted to regain control of their lives. In their efforts to escape the noise, many complained and/or worked to make changes. They found themselves trapped by formidable obstacles, contributing even more to their stress. In addition, they were persecuted by those without adequate understanding and/or compassion.
But subjugation creates motivation and drive. This population will never stop working to free themselves from the damaging noise, remedy the terrible injustice that was imposed upon them, regain a normal life, and insure this never happens to anyone again.
Repetition is unnerving. Even a clock ticking at night can produce stress for someone who does not want to hear it. The repetition of the Growlers cycling over and over, hour after hour, day after day and year after year – combined with the realization that there is no escape short of a move – can create almost intolerable stress. The periodic break in the flyovers, producing a glimmer of hope that they are finished, produces even more stress when they start up again. To escape, many leave the area or stay inside with ear protection while others have constructed soundproof rooms in their homes to seek relief.
According to a Wikipedia article on noise annoyance:
Studies have shown that neighborhood noise (consisting of noise from neighboring apartments, as well as noise within one’s own apartment or home) can cause significant irritation and noise stress within people, due to the great deal of time people spend in their residences. This can result in an increased risk of depression and psychological disorders, migraines, and even emotional stress. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_effects_from_noise
Imagine the distress that results when you discover that Growler jets are you neighbors, and their unending scream has invaded your home!
Feelings of Fear and Anger
- Humans are born with only two fears – fear of falling and fear of loud noises. Fear of noise this loud is primal. It is heartbreaking to watch the fear of very young children – in their home, walking the streets, on the beach, or at their playgrounds.
- Admiral’s Cove is, for all practical purposes, a crash zone. Plus, most of us know there have been a number of military plane crashes that have occurred just this year.A 16 ton jet at low altitude dropping drop down for landing is frightening. Neighborhoods were built where the Navy recommended no housing less than a mile from the runway. Crowds watching an airshow on July 6 in England were terrified as a Turkish F16 jet roared over at low altitude. Watch here: (http://www.lincolnshireecho.co.uk/VIDEO-Turkish-F16-Jet-flies-close-crowd/story-21335374-detail/story.html) Growler jets routinely fly over noise zone properties at little more than 200 feet higher than that jet, at noise levels that are probably louder. For any individual concerned about a crash, each time a plane circles over that low, their intense fear can contribute to a host of ailments.
- People are fearful they may never be able to sell their property, and if they do, they’ll have to take a huge loss. Two major law firms have taken on a class action lawsuit on contingency because they know the new disclosure will cause property values to go down.
- There are many health risks, some potentially fatal, especially for those already at risk with existing health problems. Go to http://www.citizensofebeysreserve.com for documentation.
- Families with children who can’t afford to move may be the most fearful of all. Health risks for children are greater than for adults. They want to play outside, and they are less willing to wear ear protection. What would be adequate protection? In many locations, they would need ear protection that was of the same quality worn by military flight deck personnel. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_effects_from_noise What would a parent do to keep ear plugs and head gear on a baby, toddler, or child? Court marshal them?
- It staggers the imagination that – in America – civilians could be subjected to noise this loud from jets flying this low, and no one is willing to do anything about it. People are mad about their own pain, but even more, they are mad that people they love are suffering, too.
- You’d think there would be laws against this, and there are – 5th Amendment, EPA, OSHA, city, county, state – and more. It turns out the Navy is above the law.
- Politicians have taken their stand against noise zone complainers, or done nothing, in order to win votes, win influence, protect the economy, and raise the tax base – all at the expense of this community. Persecution is the norm.
- Harassment has come from many sources: the Internet, signage, business boycotts, social ostracism, petitions, T-shirts, resolutions, letters to the editor, editorials, public taunts. It adds to the anger.
- People have been lied to repeatedly by the Navy. The Navy said the Growlers would be quieter, there was no need for an EIS for them, they would not exceed a 6,120 limit to yearly operations (and then hit that limit by June, requiring a law suit to get the flights to stop), crash zones criteria are not currently met at the OLF, DNL noise measurements adequately inform buyers, the planes less than a mile from the runway fly at 500 feet altitude, the Navy does not have an easement over Admirals Cove properties, the Navy has an effective Encroachment Prevention Plan, disclosure has occurred since 1992, etc. See EIS Deception for more.
- And of course realtors used a disclosure form that increased their sales and commissions and hurt their buyers. Then, many defended it. Then, they changed it, but failed to provide the required map. Now, the legal disclosure will decrease the net worth of those same buyers because their homes will sell for less.
It has been easy for leaders who could do something to stand back, recuse themselves from people in pain, and discount their complaints. Although the harmful effects of noise have been scientifically validated, it’s impacts are primarily cumulative, and, like nicotine and cancer, it is almost impossible to prove a direct connection. Health impacts show up over time and valid one-time event hearing loss would be hard to pin to the event. The Navy has hid behind outdated DNL annoyance measurements that have no bearing here.
This is the perfect storm for putting stress measurements off the charts: the noise is too loud, the planes fly too low, the disclosure process was too deceptive, the myth buyers were told was too useful, leaders have been too seduced by business as usual, many more Growlers are on the way and of course the health impacts are too serious. Much that has been done here on Whidbey Island is outright illegal and/or contrary to the intent of many laws designed to protect this population. And laws are not even written for abuse at this unimaginable level. Any future measurement of what has happened will put leaders to shame, unless something is done about it.
A common sense approach must be taken. The noise is dictated by national defense needs which could easily and dramatically increase at any time. Add to this certainty of the expansion of NASWI, the change in demographics and population density, the health impacts, and the annoyance factors unique to Whidbey Island. The total harm done by the noise generated by the Growlers is already unlivable, likely to escalate, and must be stopped. The alterations currently being made to training during the Environmental Impact Study are not sustainable.
Hasn’t the limit been reached for what civilians should be forced to sacrifice to the military? Would our national security be breached if the 1940s OLF dinosaur was moved, and would the cost really be prohibitive? If 320 million Americans need the defense provided by the Coupeville OLF, shouldn’t each taxpayer pay what would be a negligible amount? Their lives would not be impacted, but there would be instant relief for those suffering the most. No jobs would be lost because none exist at the OLF, and if it was sold, its new use could be a job creator.
Failure of the Navy over the years to ensure disclosure, despite its tremendous influence on island politics, produced this result. The Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Federal Aviation Administration all profess the importance of disclosure, and produced a profusion of guidelines, laws, and tools for the Navy. Most of them seem to have never been used at all. And now, the military is freely using FLCP landing space right above the homes of citizens where there has been no disclosure for 20 years, despite the intent of the 5th Amendment to prevent that degree of intrusion. If that is acceptable, then we are all at risk.
Military installations and civilian populations can successfully coexist. Leaders must rise to initiate the change and decision makers act, so that instead of the abuse becoming a national embarrassment, this community can be made whole. It will require compassion, a resetting of priorities and values, respect for the intent of the law, and a commitment to do the right thing.
See Stop 36 More Growlers! to see what you can do to stop the never-ending escalation of the noise.