ISLAND COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH ACCUSED OF IGNORING HEALTH PROBLEMS
Citizens Request State Intervention
Victims of hazardous Navy jet noise are accusing the Island County Health Board of failing to exercise its lawful duty to address what has been labeled a ‘public health emergency’ on Whidbey Island. Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve (COER) and other noise victims are appealing to higher levels of authority for help, beginning with the Washington State Board of Health.
Island County Board of Health members, three of whom are County Commissioners, have so far refused to take requested action aimed at preventing health harms caused by low-flying Navy EA-18G ‘Growler’ jets. Growlers, the loudest jets yet to fly, saturate homes, recreational areas and places of business with hazardous noise. Noise has been measured at and in people’s houses at levels known to cause immediate loss of hearing and a host of other health harms.
COER’s decision to go over the heads of the Island County Board of Health follows the Board’s April 19 and May 17 standing-room only meetings that were dominated by the testimony of noise victims. Citizens presented the Board with peer-reviewed studies linking noise to health harms and the impairment of childhood learning and development. The Board was also given real-time studies documenting Growler noise exceeding community standards established by the State of Washington, the EPA, and the World Health Organization.
Not a single one of the five Island County Board of Health members acknowledged or responded to COER’s simple requests that warning signs to be posted in hazardous noise areas and that impacted parks where children play be closed during low-level Growler operations.
According to Dr. James Dahlgren, a Diplomat of the American Board of Internal Medicine, Occupational and Environmental Medicine and Toxicology, the noise residents are being subjected to represents a “public health emergency.”
Dahlgren’s declaration was given to the Health Board, and like other information presented by concerned citizens, is being ignored.
“The Island County Board of Health is dominated by narrow-minded individuals who refuse to acknowledge overwhelming scientific and medical evidence of noise related health harms. They only see Navy dollars, which they appear to value over the health of the citizens they are supposed to serve and protect,” said COER President, Ken Pickard.
After hearing citizens’ plea for help, Commissioner and Health Board Chair, Jill Johnson stated, “The best way to protect public health is to have this Navy Economy.” She further stated, “health is a federal issue” and there “is no need to look into this.” Her desire to marginalize rather than help noise victims is evidenced by characterization of citizens’ testimony as a “Haight Ashbury revival.”
In 2013 Johnson wrote to the Navy stating, “I welcome the continued and expanded flights of the EA-18G, including the use of the Outlying Field in Coupeville.” The area where Johnson welcomed expanded Growler flights is the area where residents are now experiencing the “public health emergency” described by Dr. Dahlgren.
While two members of the County Board of Health have indicated that citizen’s concerns may be legitimate, the majority of the members have echoed Commissioner Jill Johnson’s sentiments.
County Commissioner and Health Board member, Richard Hannold, voiced his support for the Navy and the “great economic benefits it brings to this Island.” Hannold is a retired Navy Chief and contractor who provided services to the Navy. Bob Severns, Health Board member and Mayor of Oak Harbor where the Navy Base is located, responded to citizens’ pleas for help with a statement of support for the Navy’s “mission.”
Capt. Frederick McDonald, the Navy’s representative on Island County Board of Health, echoed the same lack of concern for noise victims stating, “I live under the flight path and I love the sound of freedom.”
“The Navy does not want the public educated or warned of health harms associated with hazardous jet noise, even though doing so would allow citizens to take steps to protect themselves,” said COER Board member Maryon Atwood. “To post warnings would be to admit the existence of hazardous noise problem that the Navy and those who do its bidding want to keep hidden.”
COER vows to continue its efforts to see that public health and other officials at the local, state and federal levels exercise their lawful duties and obligations to protect people and our environment. (http://citizensofebeysreserve.com)
The audio recordings of the April 19 and May 17 Island County Board of Health meetings, including citizen testimony and the statements of Board members can be heard at https://www.islandcountywa.gov/Commissioners/Pages/BOH.aspx