A Letter To Congressman Adam Smith – AQM

The Sea-Tac Annual Air Quality Monitoring Program – a proposal


Since 1971 there have roughly thirteen ‘studies’ of various air toxins around Sea-Tac Airport. We put the word ‘studies’ in air quotes because almost all of them have been limited either to a single toxin or to a subset of the complete Sea-Tac air space. And many of them have been modeled, not measured–which has been repeatedly shown to be inaccurate when compared with  sampling.) *Other than the 1996 Third Runway Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), there have been no comprehensive studies of all major  aviation-related toxins. Having that comprehensive and longitudinal data which would allow researchers to chart the impacts to the entire community as the airport grows. It would open up a wide array of further research and mitigation opportunities that would benefit not only your constituents but the entire nation.
Last February, Senator Karen Keiser (33rd) and Representative Jesse Johnson (30th), agreed to pursue a State proposal to create a comprehensive air quality monitoring system for the entire Sea-Tac Airport airspace. We are calling this the Sea-Tac Airport Annual Air Quality Monitoring Program (we just refer to it as ‘AQM’ for short.)

Program description

The AQM has two connected (but distinct) aspects:

  1. A Budget Proviso for $800,000 to purchase the necessary hardware and for the University of Washington DEOHS team to design the study.
    1. The hardware and concept are based on  an existing mobile monitoring system already in use in the Bay Area to monitor impacts from multiple airports.
    2. The UW people are the logical choices to design the study since Dr. Larson has been engaged in air quality studies around Sea-Tac Airport for over a decade (including most recently the MOV-UP study.)
  2. A State law would be created under authority of the Washington Clean Air Act which would direct the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA)  to run the study ever year (the ‘annual’ part.)

We are promised the draft study design from UWDEOHS (Drs. Seto, Larson and Austin) by the end of this year.

FAA Section 190

In the FAA Reauthorization Act Of 2018, there is a Section 190 pilot program which provides grants of up to $2.5M for impacted communities.  Rule making for initial applications has been delayed but is tentatively scheduled by the end of April 2021. Grant applications can be made by a combination of a government or educational institution. This would allow the State and UWDEOHS to collaborate. Having this grant possibility would be a powerful incentive for State lawmakers to vote Yes in the upcoming session.

The only question is whether or not a monitoring program would qualify as ‘mitigation’. We would argue emphatically that the answer is Yes because good longitudinal data regarding environmental impacts is the one thing no large airport has ever had. And good data is the rock upon which all further mitigation opportunities are built.



The Ask

We are asking for your full support for our Sea-Tac Annual Air Quality Monitoring Program to help get this project over the finish line. Specifically we are asking you to contact our legislators, including Senator Keiser, Representatives Johnson and also Tina Orwall who has been key to so much airport community legislation. We hope you will encourage the UWDEOHS to apply for the Section 190 grant and that you will do what you can to further that application (with the complete understanding that there are limits as to your ability to influence FAA policy.)

*Now contrast that with the water you drink. State Water Districts measure 307 toxins, four times a year to keep you safe. Imagine if your water district worked like an airport?

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