Big Dig Sediment Removal Is Still on Pause

Trucking operations at the controversial Devil’s Gate Dam sediment removal project, also known as the Big Dig, remain stalled over ongoing dust issues, and the date of the vehicles’ return is not yet known.
L.A. County Public Works Assistant Deputy Director Steve Burger said in a phone interview on Tuesday that officials are working with the contractor to come up with a plan that includes two proposed tire washes at the project’s exit to eliminate dust from the tires of the sediment-hauling trucks.
“We want to take our time and get it right,” Burger said. “They’re in the process of putting additional measures in place. We’re just making sure we cross all the t’s and dot the i’s to make certain this is successful.”
He declined to give a timeline for restarting the trucks but said that as soon as they resume operating, an update will be provided on the project’s website at pw.lacounty.gov/swe/devilsgate and emails will be sent to those who have signed up for them.
Work was stopped on Sept. 5 after the county sent out an email and posted a notice on the project’s website. Barger previously said work could resume as early as the end of last week or this week.
There have been three dust violations at the project site, with the first occurring on Aug. 1, according to Bradley Whitaker, senior public relations specialist for the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The district is monitoring environmental impacts at the site and has cited the project for dust and dirt issues.
Whitaker said a citation was issued to contractor Griffith Co. on Aug. 1 for visible dust that crossed a property line and was caused by a failure to adequately water the exit ramp. A second citation was issued on Aug. 15 to subcontractor Consolidated Street Sweeping for a sweeper truck that also caused dust to cross property lines. On Aug. 16, Griffith was cited for not stabilizing an unpaved road after a vehicle produced more dust.
No other violations have been reported.
“The status remains the same,” Whitaker said in a statement on Wednesday.
Tarped and non-tarped trucks were followed with dust levels monitored and recorded, officials said.
“We did the investigation of tarping and it showed that the dust wasn’t a problem from the top of the truck,” Burger said. “We’re very clear that’s coming from the tires of the truck. It’s an important distinction.”
Burger said many community members have said they’ve seen dust that they believe is from the tops of the trucks, but it’s really coming from the tires.
“We’re using the tire wash technology to take care of that,” Burger said.
According to the report, which can be found on the project website, “Once the tracking problem with the tires is solved, there should be a vast improvement in dust.”
Next week, LCF 4 Healthy Air and the county Public Works will co-host a community meeting to describe Phase II of the air quality monitoring plan for the project.
Presentations are set for 8:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24, in the La Cañada Unified School District board room located at 4490 Cornishon Ave. in La Cañada Flintridge.
“We’ll be there to answer questions and make sure to support the community,” Burger said.
According to a news release about the meeting, county Supervisor Kathryn Barger announced last month that Public Works will conduct tailpipe inspections of the project’s diesel trucks hauling sediment from the reservoir. Using input from the California Air Resources Board, UC Riverside researchers will conduct the inspections to help identify trucks with “faulty emissions control systems,” the release said.
Elizabeth Krider, co-founder of LCF 4 Healthy Air, will explain the inspections and the way the data will be used to ensure compliance to the project’s standards. LCUSD Superintendent Wendy Sinnette will give updates on La Cañada High School campus air quality monitoring. Officials from Public Works and the Air Resources Board will be available to answer questions.
For more information, email lcf4healthyair@gmail.com or call (310) 600-9552.
Officials have said the project, whose first phase started in late November, is expected to include up to 425 daily round trips by as many as 95 diesel trucks through the intersection of Berkshire Place and Oak Grove Drive and onto the 210 Freeway. The haul trucks are expected to meet model year 2010 emission standards as well as other requirements, officials said.
The project, which the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved in November 2017, is aimed at removing 1.7 million cubic yards of sediment behind the dam at Hahamongna Watershed Park to increase flood protection and restore habitat within the Arroyo Seco Watershed. Work to clear out trees and vegetation began in late November; sediment removal began on May 21.

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