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Smelly Windows Near Airports Should Be Replaced, Warranty Or Not: Aldermen

By Joe Ward | October 11, 2017 4:24pm | Updated on October 13, 2017 11:35am
 Midway resident Pam Zidarich points at a noise-cancelling window in a neighbor's home that is melting in the heat.
Midway resident Pam Zidarich points at a noise-cancelling window in a neighbor's home that is melting in the heat.
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Provided/Pam Zidarich

MIDWAY — The city should extend the warranties of city-installed, noise-cancelling windows that residents near Midway and O'Hare airports say are giving off a noxious, worrisome odor, according to a group of Southwest Side aldermen.

In order to soundproof homes from overheard jet noise, the city installed noise-reducing windows in 20,000 homes since 2005. Now some residents say the vinyl windows are disfiguring in the heat and emitting a noxious odor that some worry is causing health issues.

The city has confirmed that 92 homes near Midway or O'Hare have been found to have the odor, and Department of Aviation officials have said the city will replace windows in confirmed cases.

But the windows came with 10-year warranties, and some homeowners have seen their warranty run out. The city has not yet agreed to replace windows in homes where the warranty has expired, Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans said at a recent hearing on the issue.

Now a group of aldermen has drafted an ordinance requiring the city to extend the warranties of windows, doors and other products installed under the Residential Sound Insulation Program. Ald. Marty Quinn (13th), Ald. Ed Burke (14th), Ald. Michael Zalewski (23rd) and Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) introduced the ordinance to the City Council Wednesday.

"It would simply be unfair to leave these homeowners to shoulder the cost of replacing those windows and doors," Zalewski said in a statement.

Midway residents have complained of an overpowering smell that envelopes their home when the windows are in direct sunlight. The odor has been described as smelling like an electrical fire.

"It takes your breath away," one resident said at a hearing on the issue. "It's a worrisome smell."

The aldermen have been particularly upset with the Department of Aviation, accusing officials of being slow to react. A department spokeswoman said officials are working to determine the cause of the odor and remedy the situation for homeowners.

"While we are still reviewing the ordinance issued today, we stand by our commitment to addressing this issue and the concerns of residents while we work to understand what's causing the odor," Aviation Spokeswoman Lauren Huffman said. "That's why we've committed to regular inspections and window replacement with in-warranty [Residential Sound Insulation Program] homes as we obtain findings from the industry standard environmental testing to determine a path forward."

Evans said at a recent hearing the department is taking a "conservative" approach to the matter as more complaints about the windows were filed this summer. Complicating matters is that the company that supplied the windows is out of business, and the city has no legal requirement to step in, Evans said.

"We're taking a series of steps to identify the problem and a conservative approach to making the highest priority corrections," Evans said at a hearing last week. "We stepped up. We weren't required to, but we did it to be good neighbors. We have no legal obligations to provide window replacement."

Aldermen at the hearing asked the city to replace all windows found to have the odor, regardless of the warranty.

"We side with the residents, not the Aviation Department, in this matter," Quinn said in a statement. "And we will act as their voice at City Hall to strongly demand that warranties on the products be extended."