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SEATAC FLIGHT-PATH CITIES: Funding to Correct Failing Noise Remediation Project

April 17, 2024

Legislation (SB 5595) was delivered to the Governor on March 7 that would assist homeowners and businesses impacted by a noise from SeaTac International Airport. Sen. Karen Kaiser of Des Moines said the bill, approved unanimously in the Senate, and 83–13 in the House, would mitigate harm and improve equity in large port districts (such as the Port of Seattle) by establishing a port district equity fund for purposes of making grants to port districts authorized to undertake noise abatement programs.

The communities in the areas near SeaTac Airport are subject to constant noise and air pollution that is specific to jet engines. Ultrafine particles have been found throughout the pattern of landing and takeoff in the ten mile radius of the airport. The Bill Report says: The particles are so small that they can pass the blood-brain barrier, and get into a placenta. Such particles are directly correlated with higher rates of asthma, and respiratory and heart disease. There are several brain diseases that are impacted by these particles and noise, like aneurisms and seizures. Residents in the flightpath cannot eat produce they grow in their outdoor gardens because of the particles.

Previously, residents in the impacted area were given a “port package” that included insulation and windows to mitigate for noise. Many of these packages are now failing, but the port refuses to repair the failed port packages. Current federal regulations prohibit an airport from using federal funds to repair a failed port package. Thus, the need for this state funding.

Keiser said her bill proposes a pattern of ongoing remediation and repair in port communities, and dedicates money from the climate commitment account, as well as a package of revenue, to support these port package programs. There was inconsistent quality of installation of the products that were supplied for initial port packages and homeowners have suffered ever since, according to the Bill Report.

Federal money is only available for older buildings, but effective remediation packages are needed for newer buildings as well. According to Keiser, this bill would help resolve issues that communities around the SeaTac Airport have dealt with for years and cannot afford to mitigate themselves. The number of flights coming out of the airport are likely to increase in the near future.

SB 5595 provides that:

  • Revenue generated from sales and use taxes collected on capital construction projects within the port district must be transferred from the general fund to the port district equity fund, up to $10 million per year
  • A qualifying port district (which is defined as authorized to undertake noise abatement programs and serving more than 900 scheduled jet aircraft flights per day) is authorized to match, from port funds, at least one half of the total funding provided by the Legislature for purposes of noise abatement programs, including purchasing of property, assistance for selling a home, soundproofing structures, mortgage insurance for private landowners who are unable to obtain mortgage insurance due to the noise impact soundproofing structures, and resources to facilitate the assessment and inspection of sound mitigation equipment that is no longer working or is reported to have caused additional hazards or structural damage to the property.
  • A qualifying port district may contract with building inspectors or other professionals with experience in sound testing, or window and door installs, or may enter an interlocal agreement with the county in which it is located for the provision of building inspectors or professionals with experience in sound testing, or window and door installs to determine whether package failure resulted in additional hazards or structural damage to the property.
  • Any expense incurred by the county related to contracting of a building inspector or professional may be reimbursed by the port district. If a building inspector or other professional identifies that a property’s noise mitigation equipment is no longer working as intended, the port district must apply to the grant program for resources to repair or replace existing noise mitigation equipment or address related hazards or damages.
  • The Department of Commerce will administer grants from the fund to assist qualifying port districts with expenses related to noise mitigation within identified impacted areas.
  • Impacted areas are limited to:
    • No more than ten miles beyond the paved north end of any runway
    • No more than 13 miles beyond the south end paved end of any runway; or
    • No more than two miles from the centerline of any runway extending six miles north and 13 miles south from the paved end of such runway.
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