Safe Skies Clean Water letter to public officials

Date:    August 30, 2019
To:        Madison Community Leaders

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway
County Executive Joe Parisi
Governor Tony Evers
Senator Tammy Baldwin
Representative Mark Pocan
Airport Director Kimberly Jones
Madison Common Council
Dane County Board of Supervisors
School District Administrator Jane Belmore
Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education

From: Safe Skies Clean Water Wisconsin – safeskiescleanwaterwi.org
Subject: Draft Environmental Impact Statement for F-35A Squadron at Truax Field

The Air Force has released for public comment a draft Environmental Impact Statement evaluating the impacts of the proposed beddown of a squadron of new F-35 fighter jets at existing Air National Guard bases in Wisconsin, Idaho, Florida, Michigan and Alabama. The Wisconsin base at Truax Field would receive a squadron of 18 fighter jets. Of the five sites evaluated in the EIS, Truax Field has the greatest environmental justice and health impacts due the low-income and minority families that live adjacent to the county airport and thousands of residents who live on the east and north sides of Madison.

Existing Noise is Already Unacceptable – The proposed F-35A fighter jets will be four times louder and fly 47% more frequently than the F-16 jets currently based at Truax Field. The noise from the current F- 16 jet testing and training is already unacceptable to many Madison residents. The noise interferes with the enjoyment of our homes, our health and the education of our children. It adversely affects thousands of residents who live around Truax Field on the east and north side of Madison.

Environmental Racism – Existing noise already disproportionately impacts low income and minority residents who live close to Truax Field, including those in a mobile home park only 500 feet from the main airport runway. The EIS for Truax Field concludes: “There would be significant disproportionate impacts to low-income and minority populations as well as children. The increase in noise exposure to the south of the airport would disproportionately impact low-income areas and the increase in noise exposure to the east of the airport would disproportionately impact a low-income minority population.” Further the EIS concludes that 132 households will now lie within noise levels where “housing in incompatible”. The proposed squadron of F-35A fighter jets will only worsen existing noise impacts and promote environmental racism.

Protect Our Children – The EIS for Truax Field concludes: “the Proposed Action could disproportionately impact children”. The 65 dB DNL noise standard used by the EIS does not account for the impacts of noise including stress, sleep disturbance, and reduction in the educational performance of children. In its report on burdens due to environmental noise, the World Health Organization found that: 1) 50 % of children exposed to 65 decibels will develop noise induced cognitive impairment, 2) over 20 studies have shown negative effects of noise on reading and memory in children, and 3) noise exposure during critical periods of learning at school could potentially impair development and have a lifelong effect on educational attainment. The noise standard used to evaluate the proposed F-35A fighter jets will not protect our children.

No Funds for Noise Abatement – The EIS for Truax Field concludes there will be 2,766 people exposed to noise greater than 65 dB DNL. This standard is over 50 years old, and as many residents can attest, completely inadequate. The EIS states the Air Force will provide no funds for noise abatement. The FAA does allow airports to fund noise abatement for people living in the 65 dB DNL zone. We estimate that the costs to add noise abatement measures to existing homes or relocate residents in Madison is between $18 million and $285 million. Despite growing air traffic and revenue, the Dane County Airport has rejected neighborhood pleas to address existing impacts and has undertaken few noise abatement measures. There is no assurance the airport can protect those who will now be impacted by the noise from the new fighter jets. At the Air National Guard base in Burlington, Vermont, two hundred homes were purchased and demolished by the city due to fighter jet noise. In Madison, 1,318 households are within the 65 dB DNL. Will these homes also be demolished?

Drinking Water Contamination – Operations at Truax Field are responsible for contaminating local groundwater with fire-fighting chemicals, including PFAS. Well 15 has been shut down but residents have already been exposed to PFAS from this well for many years. While the EIS notes the contamination, it provides no assurance the Air National Guard will investigate and clean up the contamination. Neither does it provide estimates of the extensive liabilities faced by Truax Field.

Undesirable and Unsustainable – Madison residents are actively working to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods and encourage more people to live in the city. Madison and Dane County currently lead Wisconsin in population growth. Rather than encouraging people to live where they work and play, the F-35A squadron will make the city a less desirable place to live and promote urban sprawl, unsustainable lifestyles and global warming.

Our Comments on the Draft EIS – We have reviewed the draft EIS and prepared comments and recommendations for improvements. When you provide comments to the Air Force on the EIS, we encourage you to include those included with this letter.

Take a Stand for Madison Residents – The time for discussion is over. It is clear that the introduction of F-35A jets to Truax would have a devastating effect on Madison residents, including low-income and minority children. We ask that you send a clear message to the Air Force and those that support Truax Field as a site that you oppose this project.

Need for Meeting with Public Officials – We are saddened that Senator Tammy Baldwin and Representative Mark Pocan are supporting the F-35A squadron for Truax Field and show no concern for the impacts on Madison residents. We request a City of Madison leadership meeting with Governor Evers, Sen. Baldwin and Rep. Pocan to review the position our leaders will take on the proposed jets.

Thank you for advocating a clean and sustainable way of life for Madison. Now is the time to show you want to design a model green Wisconsin city and protect our children, our schools and our neighborhoods.

Signed by 122 Madison residents as of August 22, 2019

Our comments on the F-35 EIS – excerpted from letter to Madison Community Leaders 30aug19