EPA finds Navy study on Growler jet expansion is insufficient, and asks for on-the-ground noise monitoring.

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The Environmental Protection Agency rates as “insufficient” a draft study of the impacts of adding up to 36 additional aircraft to the EA-18G Growler fleet at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

The EPA wants more information about what the expansion would do to the environment and local communities, and recommends a monitoring program to measure the noise effects of the Growler jets.

The findings were conveyed to the Navy in a letter sent earlier this month from R. David Allnut, an EPA official in Seattle. According to the EPA policy manual, the final Navy study on the Growler expansion should include additional information on the noise impacts.

A Navy official could not be reached Friday afternoon for comment.

Naval Air Station Whidbey is the home base for the Growlers, which can jam enemy communications and launch systems, playing a leading role in the nation’s electromagnetic warfare. Crews require extensive training in lower-altitude flights as they practice landings and takeoffs.

The noise from the low-flying jets has generated complaints, as well as health concerns, from Whidbey Island residents and some in the San Juan Islands.

The Navy’s draft environmental study seeks to document effects of the move to expand, by more than one-third, the fleet of 82 Growlers at the station used in training at Ault Field near Oak Harbor and Outlying Field Coupeville. That would increase the total number of aircraft flight operations at the two air fields from 88,600 annually to more than 129,000.

The study used modeling to project the noise that would result from the expansion, and Navy officials have insisted that this is the best way to assess the effects.

Critics have said that the modeling understates the true impacts. The EPA letter calls for on-the-ground monitoring of the effects on both people and wildlife that could help to characterize the duration, frequency and intensity of exposures to Growler noise.

The EPA also recommended an assessment of hazardous air pollutants as well as what steps the Navy will take to prevent contamination of aquifers from chemicals used to fight aviation fires.