Monthly O’Hare noise complaints reach record highs

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Monthly complaints about O’Hare International Airport jet noise have once again hit record highs, with more beefs registered in August than in all of 2013, data released Friday indicated.

Monthly O’Hare noise complaints jumped from 27,956 in July to 30,249 in August — an 8 percent increase, the latest data presented to the Noise Commission showed.

The complaints have been fueled by the launch last October of new O’Hare flight paths. The month before those flight paths debuted, the O’Hare Noise hotline received only 2,124 complaints about O’Hare jet noise.

August’s talley represents a thirteenfold increase since then, and 756 more complaints than all of those registered in 2013.

The number of monthly beefs out of Chicago dipped by 33 percent in August, but Elk Grove Village complaints soared 374 percent and Itasca beefs jumped 75 percent, data released Friday showed.

The commission on Friday agreed to admit the 40th Ward —where Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s floor leader, Pat O’Connor, serves as alderman — but not without a bit of controversy.

Wood Dale Mayor and commission member Nunzio Pulice said he welcomed the 40th Ward but noted that Chicago will get yet another vote out of the deal while Wood Dale has four wards but only one vote.

The 40th Ward’s admission brought the number of Chicago wards represented to six . Plus, the Chicago Department of Aviation, representing Chicago, gets a seventh vote.

“Some people are getting the perception Chicago is trying to stack the deck,” Pulice said.

“We have a lot more planes flying over Chicago,’’ responded Chicago Department of Aviation First Deputy Commissioner Michael Boland. “Many of our wards have as many as 50,000 people.”

Also Friday, the commission agreed to endorse a proposal by member and Park Ridge Mayor Dave Schmidt to support a “supplemental environmental impact study” of current and future O’Hare flight paths and runways. Two more runways and a runway extension are planned by 2020.

Schmidt said such an FAA study would be more thorough than the “re-evaluation” the commission endorsed last month that will only predict the impact of a new south runway, due for October 2015 completion, and recommend if a more comprehensive study is warranted. Schmidt has urged the commission to jump right to the more comprehensive study.

The Chicago Department of Aviation was one of the few votes against a supplemental environmental study, with Boland saying afterwards, “I don’t think it’s necessary.’’

Schmidt noted later that all the representatives of Chicago’s wards voted for the supplemental study — but the Chicago Department of Aviation was against it.

Said Schmidt: “I see that as an interesting dilemma for the city and the Chicago Department of Aviation.’’

The more thorough study is also backed by U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley, Jan Schakowsky and Tammy Duckworth. All three Illinois Democrats wrote the FAA to request a new environmental study and public hearings after the Sun-Times reported that none of the FAA’s legally-required public hearings was held in areas due for the worst noise, and some of the information it released during the public hearing process was incorrect and incomplete.

One Chicago resident, Don Walsh of Indian Woods, even asked the Noise Commission Friday to ask a federal inspector general to investigate the FAA’s original public hearing process. The FAA has insisted it held its hearings in locations that could handle “high turnout,’’ although none of them was held in Chicago, which registered the most August O’Hare noise complaints, at 9,165.

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