Year-long study to determine Growler health impacts

A new year-long study has been planned to determine the health impacts caused by Growler noise.

A new year-long study has been planned to determine the health impacts caused by Growler noise.

The Sound Defense Alliance and Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve — commonly known as COER — have joined with scientists from the University of Washington to analyze Growler noise data.

The Growler Health Impact Project will look at data collected over the past decade. The project is being funded by the University of Washington’s Population Health Initiative.

The study has three main objectives: provide an assessment of Growler noise levels, lengths and frequency of noise exposure; estimate health risks, including potential hearing loss, increased blood pressure, sleep disturbance, stress and annoyance, and childhood learning interference; and map and inform affected communities on how to protect and advocate for their health.

The Whidbey News-Times reported earlier this month that a federal judge ruled that the Navy’s Environmental Impact Study for the expansion of the Growler program on Whidbey was flawed. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Jones ruled that the Navy violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to quantify the impact of Growler noise on classroom learning and failing to take a hard look at species-specific impacts on birds.

Additionally, the judge ruled that the Navy erred in failing to give detailed consideration to basing the Growlers at El Centro, California and failing to disclose the basis for greenhouse gas emission calculations.

The new project is co-led by Sound Defense Alliance President Anne Harvey and COER President Bob Wilbur. It was developed over several years by both groups who have collected raw data noise in the past.

“COER is happy to be part of this important UW effort focusing on utilizing the existing and extensive Growler noise data to shed a greater understanding of the noise dose impacts on exposed citizens and wildlife,” Wilbur wrote in an email to The Whidbey News-Times.

COER is a nonprofit organization with the goal to relocate Growler landing practices and protect the health of Whidbey Island inhabitants, according to its website.

The Sound Defense Alliance supports “a balance between military and defense interests and the interests and rights of the citizens and communities that the military serves and protects,” according to its website.

The project has received funding for one year. Other data taken into consideration has been provided by Washington’s Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. National Park Service and the Navy. The data covers Whidbey Island and surrounding areas.

The project team will host three community webinars during the study year. Webinar announcements and registration links will be posted to the Sound Defense Alliance and COER mailing lists and websites.