by Christian Poulsen and the King County International Airport Community Coalition

The Duwamish River Valley is home to some of the most vibrant and diverse communities in Seattle and King County. These neighborhoods have the least amount of green space available to residents, the lowest regional air quality, and host one of the most polluted sites in the country at the Lower Duwamish Waterway and Harbor Island Superfund sites. King-Boeing Field County International Airport (KCIA) is one of many sources of environmental pollution adjacent to these underserved and overburdened communities. Asthma rates in Georgetown and South Park are among the highest in the United States, and residents living within a mile of an airport can expect to live five years less than others, while mothers face a staggering 43% increase in the rate of premature births compared to the rest of King County.

KCIA – owned and operated by the King County Department of Executive Services – is located within 2 miles of 12 playgrounds and playgrounds, 21 parks, 31 schools and 61 places of worship, and is part of the airports of busiest general aviation in the county. Most aircraft using KCIA are part of a nationwide fleet of recreational vehicles still using leaded fuel (EPA, 1996). Several recent studies have found a positive link between living near busy general aviation airports like KCIA and elevated blood lead levels at or above levels found during the water crisis. Flint in 2014, which, according to the EPA, “…can cause irreversible and permanent health effects. Even low blood lead levels have been shown to affect IQ, attention span and academic achievement” (EPA, 1996). KCIA’s new master plan proposes a 1.3% annual increase in flights over the next 2 decades. In addition, he plans to move the large runway 300 feet to the north, construct a new fuel farm a few hundred yards from the Duwamish River, redevelop the hangar area, construct a parking ramp for large aircraft , repave the tracks and purchase land for the new location of the track. To date, KCIA has not measured or provided public data regarding its impacts on nearby communities or proposed environmental justice programs to mitigate the airport’s contribution to poor regional air quality, and management of KCIA made little effort to engage surrounding communities in substantial outreach. of any kind. Leaded aviation fuel contains about 2.12 grams of lead per gallon of gas, and the EPA’s latest detailed KCIA facility report in 2017 estimated that KCIA was responsible for nearly 800 pounds of emissions. lead in the air that year, but the proposed new master plan for the fuel fleet does not include new unleaded aviation fuel tanks or distribution infrastructure.

The risks of leaded aviation gasoline to communities near airports prompted the EPA to long ago prepare a proposal to endanger aviation gasoline (“avgas”). The EPA expects to release this endangerment discovery proposal this year after completing its review of the “large body of scientific information on the impact of lead-based av gas emissions on air quality in and nearby airports,” including an assessment of potentially exposed populations (letter from US EPA Region 10 Administrator Casey Sixkiller to Seattle City Councilman Alex Pedersen, May 18, 2022).

Chayo Rosario Medina, a Georgetown resident, at a fair informing neighbors of KCIACC’s equity demands. (Photo: Former Washington State Representative Velma Veloria, 11th District)

The King County International Airport Community Coalition, chaired by former Washington State Rep. Velma Veloria, co-authored draft Ordinance 2022-0011, sponsored by King County Councilmember Joe McDermott , which calls for the creation of a community-led advisory committee. advise and make recommendations to KCIA and county officials and create a community benefits agreement to address environmental, health, economic and livability concerns, such as:

  • Require KCIA to integrate county programs and initiatives into its operations, including county equity and social justice, climate action plan (SCAP), priority hiring plans, and the Racism as a Public initiative Health Crisis.
  • Require KCIA to carry out an environmental impact assessment, including noise, emissions and public health impacts of operations.

In addition to working on the ordinance, the King County International Airport Community Coalition was able to advocate for the airport to seek alternatives to the 300-foot expansion and prevent it from happening. It also benefited the general aviation community at the airport. The King County International Airport Community Coalition also successfully advocated for the airport to pause its masterplan process and revamp it to include newer data and broader engagement with adjacent and impacted communities around the airport. airport. This work is the result of the community coming together to advocate and bring community concerns to the conversation.

As good neighbours, we understand the importance of the health imperatives of the residents and young people who live in and around King County International Airport. Recognizing the impacts of health disparities on communities of color and underrepresented communities is key to ensuring that we uphold equity at the regional level. The airport is in a position to be a model of good neighborliness, and we urge the airport, elected officials and stakeholders to support Order 2022-0011. If we want to see a thriving, healthy, vibrant, and equitable county, we must anchor the needs of communities furthest from equity and most impacted by environmental and social harm. We encourage the community and stakeholders to sign on to our request ensuring the ordinance is passed by King County Council’s Government Accountability and Oversight Committee as well as the full council. You can go to our website to find more information and connect to support.

In Community and Strength,
King County International Airport Community Coalition

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📸 Featured image: Chris Poulsen and a table of students and brief community members at the Duwamish Community Hub. (Photo: Former Washington State Representative Velma Veloria, 11th District)

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