Sunday, March 25, 2012

Air Quality Issues: Construction Sites

Photo: Jerome Courshon, March 9, 2012.  (Click on photo to enlarge.)  The DWP has moved onto Rockeby from Glendale Blvd.  They're digging just a few feet from homes and businesses, without dust screening on the nearby construction fence.  Neighbors are complaining of inadequate wetting of the site and lose dirt blowing in the wind. 

Why are we talking about dust?  Particulate Matter, specifically PM10 & PM2.5, is so small, you can't see it without a microscope.  They are smaller than the width of a human hair.  PM10 and especially PM2.5 get down deep in your lungs and stay there, causing damage that can lead to variety of health problems ranging from sore throat and increased allergies to asthma, COPD, heart problems, chronic bronchitis, premature birth, premature death and cancer. 

Children are at even greater risk, since their lungs are not fully developed.  Similarly, the elderly and those with pre-existing heart or lung problems are at increased risk too.

People who live or work within 1000' of a major source of Diesel Particulate Matter (freeways and rail yards) are at even greater risk since our baseline exposure has made us more susceptible to increases in exposure, like from construction. 

During the environmental review process, special attention to PM10 & PM2.5 is supposed to occur when a site is within 1000 feet of a school.  Ivanhoe Elementary is within 1000 feet of the DWP project, Coffee Table site, (plus another condo development a few doors from the Coffee Table site), Monte Sano, Menlo Property and the 5 Freeway

When the Coffee Table site developers came to the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council, the Urban Design & Preservation Advisory Committee warned City Planning of the potential cumulative impacts from not only traffic, but short term construction effects on air quality.  UD&PAC pointed out the proximity of Ivanhoe Elementary. No extraordinary mitigations were required by City Planning.  Although the DWP is supposed to be monitoring their PM, but no one seems to enforce their violations of AQMD's Rule 403.

PM10 & PM2.5 are supposed to be mitigated by specific measures on construction sites.  The City standard conditions for approval include measures like twice a day wetting of lose dirt, which is insufficient for "fugitive dust" control.  Truck loads of earth as well as the piles of loose dirt are supposed to be covered to prevent "fugitive dust."  Many neighbors asked me about this when they saw the DWP failing to cover their truckloads before leaving the site.   

The only construction site where I ever observed really good dust control was the construction of the mini-mall on Glendale Blvd at Glenhurst in Atwater, where they used constant wetting during grading activities. 

Developers and the City fail to understand how deadly routine exposure to particulate matter is.  Even short term effects from construction cause health problems.  Just by knocking on doors, neighbors near the Glendale Blvd & Waverly DWP construction found at least 30 neighbors experiencing increased health problems since the DWP started work in December September 2011. 

If you live near the work in the vicinity of Glendale & Waverly, neighbors are organizing to deal with the DWP, Monte Sano and the other area construction issues.*  

This is why no one likes to write about health effects of particulate matter and what can be done about the issue.  It's complex and does not easily condense.  And when you live next to a freeway or rail yard - do you really want to know how bad it is for you? 

Recommended reading from the California Air Resources Board: Air Quality and Land Use Handbook: A Community Health Perspective

*2015 Contact information removed by request.