Okinawa study says U.S. air bases getting louder
NAHA, Okinawa — U.S. air bases on Okinawa are getting noisier, according to an Okinawa prefectural government study.
Gov. Keiichi Inamine on Thursday filed a request with Marine Lt. Gen. Robert Blackman, the highest-ranking U.S. military official on Okinawa, to reduce aircraft noise at Futenma Marine Corps Air Station and Kadena Air Base. Noise readings, which have been conducted by the prefectural government since 1988, showed flight operations at the bases have increased, he said.
“The result of readings in 2003 indicated continued high levels of aircraft noise at the two military bases,” Inamine stated in a letter to Blackman. Choichi Yakabe, director of the Environmental Department of the Okinawa prefectural government, delivered the letter to Marine officials Thursday and prefectural officials provided a copy to Stripes.
Similar requests were made to U.S. Consulate, the Okinawa Liaison Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Naha Bureau of the Defense Facilities Administration, a prefectural official said.
Noise level meters were installed by the prefectural government at nine locations in communities surrounding Futenma and at 15 locations in communities adjacent to Kadena Air Base.
“Noise readings over the past fiscal year (April 2003 to March 2004) indicated that frequency of occurrence of aircraft noise in communities adjacent to the two military bases has increased,” Inamine said in a statement attached to the letter.
Noise increased around Futenma in eight of the nine monitoring locations, the study showed. In one monitoring location south of the air station, the average number of times noise from the base exceeded the background noise level was 90.5
Six of the nine locations recorded maximum noise peak values in excess of 100 decibels. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 70 decibels is about the clamor level experienced on a busy urban street corner or in a car on a busy freeway.
An increase also was noted at 13 of the 15 Kadena monitoring points. All the stations recorded noise levels exceeding 100 decibels.
Marine officials could not be reached for comment. A Kadena Air Base spokesman said there could be several reasons for an increase in flight activity there during the past year.
“Kadena is a very important air base, and we get a lot of aircraft coming through here and maintain a lot of missions,” said 2nd Lt. Timothy J. Lundberg, a public affairs officer.
“We do everything we can to reduce aircraft noise — with berms, a sound wall and other noise-abatement measures,” he said. “But still, noise is inherent to aircraft operations and our primary purpose here is to support the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, which at times will mandate increased missions, as well as our support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
After a bilateral agreement in 1996 to reduce aircraft noise in communities surrounding the two military bases, readings registered at several monitoring points showed the bases were quieter between 1996 and 2000, Inamine stated in his letter. But levels since 2001 sharply increased, he said.