A civil complaint has been filed against the Port of Seattle seeking to compel the disclosure of records discussing the negative public health impacts from Sea-Tac Airport operations, including impacts from airport noise and pollution on citizens living within 10-miles of the airport.

In Edmiston v. Port of Seattle (King County Superior Court Cause No. 22-2-15797-6 SEA), Des Moines resident Steve Edmiston seeks Court intervention to address the Port’s refusal to disclose unredacted copies of a 28-page report prepared by a Port consultant, Ramboll. The “Ramboll Report” was commissioned to “generate findings and recommendations” about an earlier 2020 Public Health Seattle-King County 96-page report on “Community Health and Airport Operations Related Noise and Air Pollution” (the “Public Health Report”).

Edmiston’s lawsuit alleges that all relevant information in the Port’s Ramboll Report was redacted.

Below are sample screenshots from the report, provided by Edmiston:

Civil complaint filed against Port of Seattle regarding airport public health study 1

By way of further example, all of the Ramboll Report’s conclusions were redacted:

Civil complaint filed against Port of Seattle regarding airport public health study 2

Civil complaint filed against Port of Seattle regarding airport public health study 3

According to the Complaint:

“The risk of negative public health impacts from living near the Sea-Tac Airport is a matter of significant concern and interest to the citizens of the airport neighbor communities. The Port’s decision to intentionally withhold information from the public, specifically including the ‘findings and recommendations’ of its own consultant relating to the 96-page Public Health Report, is a matter of grave public concern.”

The Complaint alleges:

“The 96-page Public Health Report found significant rates of poor public health outcomes that became worse closer one lived to the airport. By way of example, the poor health outcomes addressed included lower life expectancy rates; higher rates of death overall, including higher rates of death from heart disease, chronic lower respiratory disease, diabetes, and chronic liver disease; higher hospitalization rates; and higher rates of premature births. The Public Health Report also addressed the likely causal nature between noise and air pollution and numerous negative health outcomes. The Public Health Report concluded, among other things, “Prevention and mitigation of airport-related pollution exposures is critical for these communities, given their increased risk. People living in airport communities are more likely to be exposed to airport-related air and noise pollution.”

The Complaint frames the issue as one of knowledge and transparency:

“The Ramboll Report consists of a 28-page presentation about the Public Health Report. The Ramboll Report was attached to multiple e-mails circulated among, by and between numerous Port personnel.” Further, “The Ramboll Report, by its very design, establishes (i) what the Port knew, (ii) when the Port knew it, and (iii) what the Port’s own consultant advised, with respect to the negative health outcomes raised by the Public Health Report.”

The Port responds
“As we noted in response to the request from Mr. Edmiston, the Port withheld portions of the Ramboll slide deck under the deliberative process exemption,” Perry Cooper. Media Relations Manager for the Port of Seattle told South King Media. “The exemption allows governments to withhold records in which opinions are expressed or policies are formulated if the release of the records would be disruptive to an ongoing decision-making process, in this case the Sustainable Airport Master Plan environmental review which has yet to be published. We will respond to the litigation through the legal process.”

Trial is set for Oct. 3, 2023.

Documents:

The Dec. 1, 2020, Public Health Seattle & King County Airport Study is here: https://bit.ly/3C4Fc2v

About Steve Edmiston
Steve Edmiston is a Des Moines, WA, resident. He has served on the City of Des Moines Aviation Advisory Committee, served on the Technical Advisory Committee for the 2020 Department of Commerce Study of the Effects of the Operation of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and presently serves as a Governor-appointed Commissioner on the Washington Department of Transportation Civil Aviation Coordinating Commission.

About Port of Seattle
The Port of Seattle is a public municipal corporation that owns and manages Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the region’s largest airport and the 8th largest airport in the United State. The Port claims $22.5 Billion in total economic activity is generated by Sea-Tac Airport. The Port budgeted 2021 revenues at $987,694,000. The Port’s 2021 budgeted expenses were $792,475,000.