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AReCO in the News

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

    By Bob Hergurth

Date: December 17, 2003

Copyright 2003, Digital Chicago Inc.


Suburbs awake to discover mysterious grime on cars


When Park Ridge residents awoke Tuesday to a thin layer of brown grime on their cars -- the first suspect was emissions from nearby O'Hare Airport or its jets.

It turned out the grit -- which turned up primarily in north, northwest and west suburbs -- probably was harmless dirt stirred up in dust storms that recently raged hundreds of miles away in New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, the National Weather Service reported.

The grit was kicked into the air, and strong winds from the south and southwest most likely delivered it here, with the light rain overnight bringing it down to the ground, said the weather service's Matt Friedlein.

The winds "could accelerate that hundreds of miles, and the rain just brought it down," Friedlein said. "It was light enough that it wasn't washed away" from surfaces such as cars.

He has heard of red dirt from Colorado and Kansas ending up here in the late summer and early fall, but said, "In the winter you don't see this too often."

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency was satisfied with the weather service's explanation and did not plan on conducting tests, said the agency's Kim Kuntzman.

The Alliance of Residents Concerning O'Hare, a suburban-based environmental and anti-noise group, fielded several calls from people fearing O'Hare was to blame, said the group's chief, Jack Saporito.

That's not an unfounded fear, Saporito noted, for residents in inner-ring suburbs under flight paths often will find "goo" from jet exhaust on patio furniture, homes and vehicles. "Then we see blue goo, which is from the toilets," he added.

Tom Swoboda, Park Ridge's deputy police chief, was among those to find the brown grit on his car Tuesday.

"It almost seems like you would go off-roading, the car's all dirty, like a brownish dust," he said. "I didn't give much thought to it," but later learned "all the squads were blanketed with it this morning."

Other towns reporting the grit include Elgin, Schaumburg, Palatine and Evanston, said Ken Labas, a weather service meteorologist.