Jet noise is an unpleasant fact of life for people who live near O’Hare International Airport. But for some homeowners in west suburban Wood Dale, it’s a bad situation made worse by an invisible dividing line that prevents them from getting much needed sound insulating for their homes.
The line is part of a noise contour map drawn by the Federal Aviation Administration that goes right through the community, creating haves and have-nots when it comes to homes that get free sound insulating doors and windows Neighbors say they’re are frustrated because they live just feet outside the contour lines and can’t get help, while other homeowners within a stone’s throw can.
"It just doesn't make sense,” Jim Kielczynski said.
He and his wife, Gale, have lived in their Wood Dale home for 30 years. The couple says they can’t understand why they’ve been turned away.
“We get all the planes here and they get all the windows over there," Kielczynski lamented.
Neighbor Aldona Oleska-Trela shared similar sentiments. She’s lived in her home for a decade.
"I'm angry because it's truly unfair to us. I pay taxes the same as they do," Olesky-Trela said. “And I know a lot of people in Wood Dale who got them for free and I’m wondering why we can’t have them.”
Even Wood Dale Mayor Nunzio Pulice can’t get help. His home is also right outside the contour map, like many others in his community.
"So how do I tell the residents well you're not in the contour? But mayor, the plane is over my house! What am I supposed to say,?" Pulice said.
A recent study done by a team of independent aviation consultants and former FAA air traffic controllers hired by a consortium of affected suburbs shows the residents have a point. Among its findings: the Chicago Department of Aviation and the FAA underestimated how many residents would be significantly disturbed by the noise. The report also found the FAA’s definition of significant noise impact was not based on an objective analysis or systemic scientific research.
Neither the FAA or the CDA would talk to NBC 5 Investigates on camera, but both agencies said they would review the recommendations made in the report, which could lead to changes in the contour map and other standards that affect which homeowners who are eligible for relief. Both agencies said alterations to the map and allowable noise levels are possible, but would not speculate on how fast it could happen.