EVERETT, Wash. — The Snohomish County Sheriff's Office is investigating why Paine Field Airport has been flooded with fake noise complaints.
Those complaints appear to be from Arif Ghouse, the airport's director, according to Scott North, a spokesperson for Paine Field.
North said some false reporting disrupted the data last month. The person or people pretending to be Ghouse sent numerous complaints.
"He (Ghouse) started getting notifications to his email that he was making complaints, noise complaints to Paine Field about Paine Field. And not just one or two, but sometimes hundreds in a day," said North.
Historically, noise complaints have come in through a hotline. There is also an online form, but North says third party applications or services that allow subscribers to file complaints with the airport is how the fake reports arrived.
"Six out of ten of our complaints are coming in that way, so it is not just like a small thing," North explained. "How do we make sure that the noise complaints arriving through this portal meet our standards for reliability and accuracy?"
Commercial service started in March at Paine Field. Now there are 24 departures and 24 arrivals of commercial aircraft daily. Operations are not the only thing that has increased – there have also been a spike in noise complaints.
In August of 2018, there were 53 noise complaints. The following August, the number rose to 2,743.
The issue of noise has been a polarizing piece of the puzzle with some worried that the sounds you often hear around Sea-Tac International Airport could become a nuisance at Paine Field. It even had critics caution that Paine Field could become "Sea-Tac North."
"The pushback was we are here to support Boeing, aerospace manufacturing to whatever level that can get to, and general aviation, but didn't want to be a Sea-Tac north," said Mike Moore with Save Our Communities. "We were given assurances that it would of course never grow and expand to that level. It would just be a small little terminal and just a couple gates, but now you already hear calls for expansion."
Save Our Communities is a non-profit organization that says it is dedicated to preserving the quality of life throughout Snohomish, Island, and northern King counties.
Moore is paying close attention to the operations and the noise at Paine Field.
North says it is important to them too because they want to be good neighbors. They also want to make sure noise complaints are credible.
"Setting up accounts that make it appear the airport director is making the complaints is kind of counterproductive," North said.
"Certainly, we would be right in there with them on reporting accurate data, but we also want them to take it seriously that you have to mitigate the impacts," said Moore.
Moore says accurate numbers mean a lot as they look toward the future of Paine Field.