The Washington State Board of Health will consider in a meeting today whether to investigate a complaint against two Island County Public Health employees.
In addition, Gov. Jay Inslee may or may not be considering a request for a meeting with a coalition of groups concerned about impacts of Navy training operations in the state.
Whidbey anti-jet-noise group Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve, or COER, filed a complaint with the state Board of Health alleging that county Public Health Director Keith Higman and Health Officer Brad Thomas have been derelict in their duty to carry out laws and regulations concerning public health.
Ken Pickard, a member of COER, said the group’s complaint is nearly unprecedented in the state. A state law allows any person to file a complaint with the state board concerning the failure of a local health officer or administrative officer to follow public health laws.
COER members approached the county’s Board of Health several times asking for a study and other actions related to the noise caused by the Navy’s EA-18G Growler aircraft, which practices carrier landing at the Outlying Field near Coupeville.
COER members claim that the noise causes health problems in citizens. The county Board of Health, however, voted 3-2 to take no action in regard to jet noise. The resolution passed by the county board states that no public health crisis is at issue concerning jet noise, and that no facts have been presented to demonstrate causation between jet noise and individual health concerns.
Not only is there no reliable evidence of health problems related to jet noise on Whidbey, but the county has neither the resources to perform a study nor the authority to alter the Navy’s training flights, Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson, a member of the board of health, said this week.
Thomas argued against the board’s resolution, saying that noise can cause health problems in some circumstances. Pickard said it’s obvious that Thomas wants to do his job but is being prevented from doing so by elected officials who care more about the Navy than their citizens’ wellbeing.
In another action concerning Navy training, activist organizations signed a letter requesting a meeting with the governor. According to the COER press release, the purpose is to discuss what they claim are “Navy training operations that have and will have significant economic environmental and public health impacts on our state.”
“Gov. Inslee has not been adequately informed about the issue of widespread and growing concern, and cannot provide direction and guidance without understanding all the facts,” COER representative Cate Andrews said.
The group says that a previous request for a meeting was sent in August, but the governor’s office did not respond.
Organizations that signed the letter in addition to COER, included Quiet Skies Coalition, Save the Olympic Peninsula, North Olympic Sierra Club Group. Protect the Peninsula’s Future, Veterans for Peace, Olympic Environment Council and Concerned Island Citizens.