Program aims to insulate homes in Sea-Tac Airport flight path

As the airport expands, several agencies are working to mitigate the noise issues that living under a flight path can pose.

SEATTLE — Neighborhoods around Seattle Tacoma International Airport grapple with the sound of planes overhead every day.

Both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Port of Seattle, which oversees the airport, have spent millions installing house insulation to reduce engine roar. However, many of these systems are now 20 to 30 years old and are failing.

Debi Wagner can only name passing planes by the sound they make. She originally moved to Des Moines in 1979 and said at the time the airport wasn’t that busy.

In the 1990s, she noticed a change. One night she was roused from sleep by the sound of a cargo plane.

“Usually it didn’t happen and it was scary and I had kids and I wondered what would happen if something happened or an accident happened.”

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It ended up moving again and again, each time under a new trajectory.

Her home was insulated through a program funded by the FAA and the Port of Seattle. Some of the homes supported by the program now have insulation that is 20 to 30 years old.

“I started hearing from homeowners in the district that they were having problems, these packages stopped working, they couldn’t sleep at night, the noise was unbearable,” said MP Tina Orwall.

Wagner eventually moved to Idaho, but her son still lives in that house in Des Moines.

“The sound penetrates the walls. It’s so quiet at night that it still bothers us,” Wagner said.

Orwall, Congressman Adam Smith, and the Port of Seattle have all worked to fix homes. A bill was passed to repair insulation in homes built after 1990. Now they are looking for funding.

“When people can’t sleep at night, there are health effects — chronic stress, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease. It affects children and their learning,” Orwall said.

Sea-Tac has been at the forefront of its insulation programs. Since 1985, the Port of Seattle has spent $300 million insulating more than 9,000 homes. It is currently speeding up the process and doing the isolations before receiving grant money, port officials said.

“We understand the impact an airport has on communities in the area, yet support each other in giving us more tools, resources and flexibility to help in any way we can,” said Perry Cooper of the Port of Seattle.

A hurdle for all of these agencies is the lack of federal regulations, which the FAA says it is making changes to.

Meanwhile, Wagner said she wanted answers: “We know it’s not certain, but we know it’s long-term. Are the health effects immediate or are they yet to come? We do not know it.” Program aims to insulate homes in Sea-Tac Airport flight path

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