Debi Wagner says the health impacts on communities surrounding Sea-Tac Airport are already being felt, and more needs to be done.
"What we have already is intolerable," the Burien City Council candidate said Wednesday evening during a public meeting on the growing operations at Sea-Tac, which celebrated its 70th anniversary this month.
Wagner says she and her neighbors are living with constant noise pollution that is increasing as more people travel through the airport. Residents are "already at a breaking point," she said.
Last year, approximately 49.8 million passengers traveled through the airport, according to the Port of Seattle. An average of 136,000 people passed through the airport each day, according to the port.
By the end of this year, the Port of Seattle expects the airport will have handled at least 50 million passengers.
Sea-Tac is currently considered the eighth busiest and one of the fastest growing in the nation.
There are currently $3.7 billion in improvements being made to make the airport more efficient, according to the port. Earlier this month, the new expansion of the North Satellite was unveiled. It adds 255,000 square feet and an additional story. An additional eight gates will be added when the project is complete.
According to airport officials, operations are up 23% since 2014, which is why the state is hosting several public meetings to allow impacted communities to engage with leaders and members of an advisory committee including officials from Burien, Des Moines, Federal Way, Normandy Park, SeaTac and Tukwila.
The meeting was part of a study requested by the state Legislature last year with the goal of evaluating the impacts on quality of life associated with air traffic noise, public health, traffic congestion, parking, effects on property values, and more. The study is expected to be complete by June 2020.
If you ask Wagner, it's a necessary step for communities who are already "deprived of sleep" and feeling the health impacts of living near a busy airport. She says leaders need to find a way to reduce the impacts and create more of a buffer between flight traffic and residential areas. Using hybrid aircraft for shorter flights is one idea she pitched. Another: high speed rail between Vancouver, B.C. to Portland to cut down on local flights.
Overall, the Port of Seattle Commission is being more proactive in the organization's history in its efforts to "build the foundation for a strong economic future, a vibrant quality of life, and a healthy environment for all residents," a spokesperson Perry Cooper wrote to KING 5.
Cooper noted several items that "help our communities" in "key ways." That includes the airport's economic impact, which is more than $22.5 billion in business revenue and generates more than 151,000 jobs. Many of those jobs are in King County, with 40 percent of workers coming from the south end. About one quarter of Sea-Tac passengers, Cooper says, use businesses that operate in the City of SeaTac.
Additionally, the port has worked to lessen the environmental impact of airport by reducing emissions and spending more than $400 million in noise mitigation efforts, according to Cooper. Those noise mitigation efforts include insulating more than 9,400 homes and six condo complexes and helping secure money for Highline School District's effort to reduce noise.
The port recently launched the Late Night Noise Limitation Program, which provides incentives to airlines to overnight. A community advisory committee is working on further changes that could limit noise.