Congressman Peter Roskam this week said he is concerned about the health and welfare of residents living near O'Hare Airport, now that the city of Chicago plans to begin demolishing hundreds of properties in the village of Bensenville.
Officials in Bensenville say they are pleased their congressman has gone to bat for the village to protect residents and the community from the expansion of O'Hare Airport, and hope he will be able to assist the community in the fight to protect hundreds of residents still living near the airport.
Roskam, R-6th District, of Wheaton, said he sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, calling on the agencies to conduct a thorough health risk study to examine the danger of exposure to toxic substances from the proposed demolition of hundreds of Bensenville homes in accordance with the O'Hare Modernization Program.
The village has passed an ordinance rejecting any issuance of demolition permits in the acquisition zone until the DuPage County Circuit Court makes a ruling, which could come next week.
While the OMP has not said how it will proceed with those tear-downs, OMP Executive Director Rosemarie Andolino said measures will be taken to insure the safety of nearby residents.
In a letter sent to the acting regional administrator of the FAA's Great Lakes Region and the regional administrator for the EPA's Chicagoland office, Roskam expressed his concern for the health and safety of residents in Bensenville. Roskam said he has concerns about the lack of knowledge of potential public health threats of the proposed demolition activity to the 160 families remaining in the acquisition area.
"Caution and careful deliberation, not speed, should mark this process," Roskam said. "For the safety of all the families in Bensenville, I urge all parties to exercise due diligence in protecting the health and welfare of my constituents."
Joe Karaganis, an attorney representing the village, said the village appreciates the fact that Roskam is following in the footsteps of retired Congressman Henry Hyde, who fought vigorously against the airport expansion plans.
However, Karaganis said he isn't sure what the letter will accomplish, as both the FAA and the city of Chicago have given no information on how they will handle the demolition of more than 450 parcels owned by the city of Chicago.
"The FAA has basically rubber-stamped everything that Chicago has asked for," Karaganis said. "That is why it is important that the courts decide this, not the FAA."
At a village information meeting last month, Village President John Geils said concerns about lead, asbestos and other toxins in the buildings and the soil of properties set to be demolished could be a health risk to nearby residents.
Karaganis said the 1,500 page Environmental Impact Study completed by the FAA several years ago does not address the impact of such widespread tear-downs on the environment, or how it would impact the village of Bensenville.
Roskam said the letter gives the FAA an opportunity to protect the health and welfare of those living near the airport, and he promised to continue fighting for those residents.
"I will continue to stand with the families of Bensenville strongly opposing any action to move forward on the proposed demolition of the parcels in Bensenville until the health and safety of Bensenville residents and their families receives adequate protection as recommended by public health experts," Roskam said.