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WGN: Changes make OHare very noisy neighbor for some

Nov 6, 2013
In the News

The following video appeared on on November 6. A link to the article can be found here.


Reporter 1: The O’Hare modernization project is expected to generate tens of thousands of jobs, add to safer landings and take-offs. All sound good until you actually hear it.

Reporter 2: Three weeks after opening a new runway, families are saying they’ve had enough. WGN's Lourdes Duarte visited one neighborhood to get a read on what the aircraft noise level is really like.

Lourdes Duarte: Some neighborhoods have benefited from the new runway, they have less noise, but places like Schiller Park are feeling it worse than ever. One family says they knew living close to O’Hare means noise is always an issue but they never expected this.

Ranko Zec: Now I follow the plane...

Lourdes Duarte: Cell phone video let you hear it and see it

Ranko Zec: That's 97 decibels

Lourdes Duarte: What Ranko Zec has said is now too difficult to overlook. His decibel meter on his phone shows 97. Your average rock concert, that's about 100 decibels. But that's not the worst of it. He says at times the levels have read 110 or 115.

Ranko Zec: It's really bad. It wakes me up every night.

Lourdes Duarte: On one of those nights he called WGN to show what the new runway means for him and his neighbors at Schiller Park

Ranko Zec: I never complain about airport noises. I've lived here for 12 or 13 years and everything was fine until about 3 weeks ago

Lourdes Duarte: 3 weeks ago was about the time of a big kick off—the start of operations of runway 10c as part of the O'Hare modernization project--10,800 feet of runway running east to west. That runway, less than 3/4 of a mile from the Zec's six story apartment building.

Ranko Zec: I can't even talk on my phone if the window is open. The people cannot hear me when I’m talking.

Lourdes Duarte: On the day we visited we measured the levels at least half a dozen times during an hour and a half. [In conversation] So two different devices measuring the exact same thing. It's loud enough to trigger car alarms almost every time. At night it gets worse. We went back on a weeknight-4 different planes, we clocked one at about 115 decibels. But what does all that mean? Dr. Alan Micco says it is enough to cause stress. At 110, possibly even hearing loss.

Dr. Alan Micco: At 110 Db, we don’t recommend more than about a half hour or a quarter of an hour of exposure at that level for continuous...

Lourdes Duarte: What about every 3 minutes?

Dr. Alan Micco: There are some theories that a pulsing of a loud noise can cause some hearing loss.

Lourdes Duarte: To prevent it, within the last year, new soundproof windows and sliding glass doors were paid for as part of the modernization project. The Zec's got it, and so did their neighbors. It drowns out noise if all is closed, but don't open windows...

[airplane noise]

Lourdes Duarte: Chicago's aviation department says that it conducts noise tests at 32 locations 24/7 and that the October numbers will be in come December. They have been getting complaints, but in December they will have a feel for just how many. In the mean time, Congressman Mike Quigley has been on the side of residents for some time now. He has written to the FAA, he wants a flying path at the very least modified, and he says the FAA needs to rework its policy on what is too much noise

Rep. Mike Quigley: The policy doesn't take in to consideration enough of a single incident effecting people's lives. Particularly at night. the type of incident that wakes people up.

Lourdes Duarte: That's exactly what's happening to the Zec's, and they are frustrated

Resident: I get that the airport is busy, but so are we. Our work suffers if we have planes flying over our heads at 4 in the morning waking us up.

Lourdes Duarte: Nobody seems to be listening to what they are hearing over and over again. [in conversation] You called 311 and what did they say?

Ranko Zec: They said okay, we got your complaint, that's the end of the story.

Lourdes Duarte: So Quigley expects to hear back from the FAA next month. He says that their formula to determine what is too much noise is what's flawed. They combine times when there is lots of noise and times when there is no noise and then come up with an average. He says that their formula really doesn't seem fair. If that formula changes, it may mean relief for people in other areas, like midway airport, which deals with some noise issues as well, so we will have to see what happens.

Reporter 1: The first question is why did you move there, but you bring up a good point. When the runway wasn't there, when it was going in the other direction, it wasn't nearly over their house, it was manageable right?

Lourdes Duarte: Right, it was manageable and they are saying this we cannot deal with. Because even if they open their window just a smidge or their sliding glass door they are hearing this noise and the planes are coming through even at midnight, 10 pm. They are trying to fall asleep and obviously they cannot do that. But by the same token there were neighborhoods in the past that were getting all this noise and now they are not. So what can you really do about it? You can't just not use that runway. So they are going to have to come up with a better idea.