Thestart of construction several months ago brought the beginning of 10 to15 years of increased noise to our neighborhood. After receiving several complaints, we researched what options were available to our residents. The first thing we did was measure the sound levels at the residential property line on the north side of the 400 E. Randolph property where the noise was the loudest. The main offender was the Lindahl #284 Catepillar earth compactor which appears to be opperating with a very ineffective muffler. A similar-sized Lindahl #266 Volvo earth hauler was relatively not offensive. We measured 96db on the slow C-scale, and 99db on the fast C-scale at approximately 110 feet from the noise source. It was very disturbing to the near-by residents.
We turned to the City of Chicago Environmental Department and their Direct Complaint phone line 312-744-7672. To our amazement, an inspector advised that noise limits of 55db only exist in Chicago during the night hours from 9pm to 8am. There are no CHICAGO ORDINANCE LIMITS during the daytime from 8am to 9pm. We asked by phone and email if there were Ilinois noise limits enforced by the city and we were repeatedly ignored. We were told that an inspector would visit the near-by complaining residential unit and take noise measurements. But he never came after repeated attempts. We finally learned that he did visit the site, but that the measurements would only be available through a Illinois Freedom of Information request.
Because we could get no answers from the Chicago environmental personnel, we contacted the Illinois Pollution Control Board (312-814-3620), the judicial arm of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act. (The Illinois EPA is the enforcement arm.) They advised that Chicago would be the primary agency for noise enforcement within their jurisdiction, and of course, the Illinois limits did apply in Chicago. They directed us to Illinois Title 35, Part 901 (Property line noise sources) . Section 901.102 specified the limits of noise FROM Class B land (Lakeshore East) TO Class A land (our residential units).
Octive Band CenterDaytimeNight
31.5 72 db 63 db
63 71 61
125 65 55
250 57 47
1000 45 35
2000 39 30
4000 34 25
8000 32 25
Fast Dynamic 50 db 45 db
However, through further study of the very extensive Illinois regulations, we learned that one of the exceptions buried in Section 901.107(d) is: "...shall not apply to sound emitted from equipment being used for construction." The well-connected developers and powerful construction lobby has taken care of themselves. The condominium associations that represent the owners and residents in our buildings would have to hire an attorney to prove the noise is excessive, unnecessary, and fixable, and the levels constitute a NUISANCE to our residential living environment and are harmful to our mental and/or physical health.
Each condominium board must decide what course of action is required to protect the owners and residents they represent. The construction is projected to last for 10 to 15 years. The current major earth moving projects should last for possibly another year. The advisors to this website will help in any way that is desired.
This page was last updated on: May 17, 2016
To NewEastside Homepage Index
Added September, 2006:
Based on many noise complaints from the 3-day Lollapalooza in Grant Park, our research indicates that "peforming arts" or "yachting club" land use classification is also "B", so these same limits would apply. Daytime is defined as between 7am and 10pm. See Frequently Asked Questions Below....
Added September, 2011: Because it has been expensive to measure the noise in the 9 "Octive Band Centers" as prescribed by Illinois limits, the public has had difficulty "enforcing" the limits. However, basic sound meters measure sound with "A-weighting" characteristics (dbA) that responds primarily to frequencies in the 500to 10,000 Hz range, which is the area of greatest sensitivity of the human ear. So, for example, a measurement of Lallopalooza noise between 7am and 10pm from the 15th floor balcony of Outer Drive East above 51 dbA (see table at left) would be in violation of Illinois noise limits. A simple 1-page form can initiate a "formal complaint" with the Illinois Pollution Control Board (without the need for a lawyer or sound engineer).
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I file an informal or formal complaint with the Board?
Under the Environmental Protection Act (Act) 415 ILCS 5/1 et seq., any person can file a complaint with the Illinois Pollution Control Board (Board) against an alleged polluter. The Board is Illinois’ environmental court for pollution cases. The Board therefore hears and decides environmental enforcement actions, but does not prosecute them or investigate alleged pollution.
There are two types of complaints that a citizen can file with the Board against an alleged polluter: (1) an informal complaint; and (2) a formal complaint.
An informal complaint is a request by a citizen for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to conduct an informal investigation of alleged pollution. The Board forwards the informal complaint to the IEPA.
A formal complaint filed by a citizen (complainant) starts an enforcement action against an alleged polluter (respondent). If the Board accepts the formal complaint for hearing, the complainant has the burden to prove that the respondent committed the alleged violations. Requesting an informal investigation is not a prerequisite to filing a formal complaint.
The explanatory materials provided with the sample complaint forms are for general informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice or substitute for provisions of any statute, rule, or regulation.
You may want to consult the Act and the Board’s procedural rules. The Board’s environmental regulations on air pollution, land pollution, water pollution, and other types of pollution are found in Title 35 of the Illinois Administrative Code. Additionally, the Clerk’s Office, at the number listed below, can provide you with a copy of specific regulations that might apply to your situation.
How do I file a noise complaint with the Board?
In the past, when the Board received informal complaints alleging noise pollution, the Board forwarded them to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to investigate. IEPA, however, no longer has the resources to operate a noise program. Accordingly, IEPA is no longer investigating alleged noise pollution.
The Board notes that anyone can file a formal complaint with the Board, alleging noise violations under the Environmental Protection Act (Act) (415 ILCS 5/1 et seq.) and Board regulations. As with any citizen enforcement action before the Board, you, as the complainant, would have to gather evidence to prove the violations that you allege. You may want to consult the Act, the Board's procedural rules, and Board's noise regulations.
Whether or not you bring a formal enforcement action before the Board, you may wish to hire a noise consultant to assist with your problem.
Finally, as IEPA no longer runs a noise program, it suggests that you also consider reporting your noise concern to the local police or health department. Local authorities may provide you with guidance, or take steps on their own to enforce the State's noise laws. The Board, as the State's environmental court and rulemaking body, has no investigators.
If you have additional questions please call Dorothy M. Gunn at (312) 814-6931.
NOISE from entertainment, motor vehicles, and general Chicago noise
All of the material regarding construction noise from Lake Shore East in 2002 and Lollapalooza Noise was moved to the end of this webpage in 2012, when this website's advisors realized that Illinois EPA Noise Limits probably do not apply in Chicago, because Chicage has Home Rule authority under the 1970 Illinois Constitution. We will be conducting more research on this issue and will revise this webpage accordingly.
Constitution of the State of Illinois
ARTICLE VII LOCAL GOVERNMENT
SECTION 6. POWERS OF HOME RULE UNITS
(a) A County which has a chief executive officer elected
by the electors of the county and any municipality which has
a population of more than 25,000 are home rule units. Other
municipalities may elect by referendum to become home rule
units. Except as limited by this Section, a home rule unit
may exercise any power and perform any function pertaining to
its government and affairs including, but not limited to, the
power to regulate for the protection of the public health,
safety, morals and welfare; to license; to tax; and to incur
Chicago, Illinois....as of 2001
ARTICLE VII. - NOISE AND VIBRATION CONTROL
11-4-1110Sound pressure level--Public way.
No person except a person participating in a parade or public assembly for which a permit has been obtained pursuant to Chapter 10-8, shall, for purposes of entertainment or communication, generate any sound by any means so that (1) the sound pressure level on the public way measured at a distance of ten feet or further from the source exceeds 80 dB(A), or is more than 10 Db(A) above the ambient noise level, or (2) the sound is louder than an average conversational level at a distance of 200 feet or more, measured either horizontally or vertically from the point of generation. Any person participating in a parade or public assembly for which a permit has been obtained pursuant to Chapter 10-8 of this Code may generate sound in excess of the limitations in this section only if the sound generated does not exceed maximum levels set forth in regulations that the commissioner of the environment maypromulgate. Such regulations shall define reasonable maximum sound levels in light of the nature of the event, its time, and the character of the surrounding neighborhood.
11-4-1120Sound pressure level--Time restrictions.
Notwithstanding any other provision of this article, no person on the public way, in a public or private open space, or in a vehicle shall generate any sound by any means so that the sound pressure level exceeds 55 dB(A) within any residential unit between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.
11-4-1130 Exempted acts.
The provisions of Sections 11-4-1110 or 11-4-1120shall not apply to any of the following acts:
(a) Use of a sound amplification device as an alarm or emergency warning device;
(b) Sounds generated between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. in construction, demolition or repair work pursuant to duly authorized permit or franchise or license agreement;
(c) Sounds generated in construction, demolition or repair work of an emergency nature or in work on public improvements authorized by a governmental body or agency;
(d) Sounds generated by any aircraft or generated in connection with the operation of any airport;
(e) Sounds generated at any stadium or in connection with any festival, parade or street fair conducted pursuant to a valid permit;
(f) Sounds generated in the operation of any mass transit system.
11-4-1320 Nonapplicability of provisions to public performances.
The operational performance standards established by this ordinance shall not apply to any public performance being conducted in accordance with the provisions of a special permit granted by the city for the conduct of a public performance; provided that this exception does not exempt performers with permits issued under Section 4-268-030 of this Code from the noise limitations of this chapter.
11-4-1390 Legal remedy for damage unimpaired.
Nothing in this article shall be construed to impair any cause of action or legal remedy therefor of any person or the public for injury or damage arising from the emission or release into the atmosphere or ground from any source whatever of noise or earthshaking vibration in such place or manner or at such levels, so as to constitute a common law nuisance.
Moved below this line in 2012, due to Chicago's Home Rule Authority probably takes precedence over Illinois EPA Noise Limits.
Added July, 2013:
Excerpt from Illinois Appellate Court Ruling on City of Chicago v. Illinois Pollution Control Board (No. 76-1430 (373 N.E.2d 512, 57 Ill. App. 3d 517) (Ill. App. Ct. February 6, 1978):
So, it appears that violations to the Illinois EPA Noise Limits (detailed below) are properly the basis for a "formal complaint" to the Illinois Pollution Control Board (see the simple procedures below).