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East Side Neighbors Rally Against F-35s

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On Saturday, February 29, over 500 people marched to the gates of Truax Field to protest the plan to base F-35 fi ghter jets in Madison. The Air Force announced in February that Madison, one of five potential sites, was the preferred location for the fl eet. Yet many in the neighborhoods surrounding Truax Field oppose the F-35s and have taken steps to make their voices heard before the fi nal decision is made.

The impact of high-decibel noise is one of the community’s central concerns. The Air Force’s Environmental Impact Statement, issued February 19, concludes that over 2,200 residents of the area stretching from Commercial Avenue north to Highway 19 would experience 65 decibel-level noise, while around 300 residents of the Carpenter-Ridgeway neighborhood would experience sound levels between 70-75 decibels. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, 65 decibels and above is “not compatible” with residential or school use. The Center for Disease Prevention and Control has found exposure to loud noise to contribute to health conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and hypertension, while the World Health Organization has linked high-decibel noise exposure in children to poorer reading comprehension, standardized test scores, and long-term memory.

According to Alder Syed Abbas, who represents District 12, an economically and racially diverse community surrounding Truax, “The new fi ghter jet noise will have signifi cant disproportionate impacts to our low-income and minority populations as well as to children in our district.” Tehmina Islam, a midwife in the Eken Park neighborhood whose home would be deemed “incompatible for residential use” due to the 65-decibel noise level, expressed concern about the eff ects of the F-35s on mothers and children. Pointing out that the American Academy of Pediatrics has concluded that such high noise levels can cause preterm labor and growth restriction in babies, she emphasized: “This issue isn’t about noise and the inconvenience of it. It’s about protecting the most vulnerable people in our community, babies, children, pregnant people, veterans with PTSD, low-income families and people of color.”

In addition to the dangers from noise exposure, those opposing the F-35’s have also voiced concerns about the impact on drinking water of the plan. Materials used in the operation of the aircraft contain PFAS, a chemical linked to development problems, thyroid disease, cancer, and weakened childhood immunity. Groundwater pollution from PFAS is already a problem in Madison because of the F-16 jets. (In May 2019, the chemical was found in ten of nineteen tested municipal wells, resulting in the well closest to the airport (Well 15) being shut down.)

“These are forever chemicals,” stated State Representative Chris Taylor, who represents many of the aff ected neighborhoods. The aircraft “could have severe consequences for our community in terms of pollution that’s getting into our lakes and our waterway. F-35 Rally continued from P.1 For the sake of access to clean water alone this proposal should be stopped.” Tehmina Islam likewise emphasized that the F-35s threaten the health of the entire Madison community. “Do you drink water?” she demanded. “Then it’s your issue too.”

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway has spoken against the F-35s. Both houses of the state legislature passed resolutions supporting the F-35s in October 2019. Senators Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson have also expressed support. The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce has said basing the F-35 fl eet at Truax will secure jobs, boost the economy, and increase safety.

Air Force Secretary Barbara M. Barrett will make a fi nal basing decision by the end of March. For more information, visit www. safeskiescleanwaterwi.org.

Posted by Evelyn Atkinson, Area Rep
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