County Official Briefs Council on Big Dig Dust Control Effort

big dig
Photo courtesy Los Angeles County Public Works
The La Cañada Flintridge City Council listened to presentations from Los Angeles County and local residents about the controversial Devil’s Gate Dam sediment removal project at a recent study session meeting.

It will take up to three weeks to install a wheel washer and start a pilot tarping program at the Devil’s Gate Dam sediment removal project to cut down on dust generated by the sprawling enterprise, a Los Angeles County official said at a meeting this week.
Steve Burger, assistant deputy director of the county Department of Public Works, made the comments about the project, also known as the Big Dig, at a La Cañada Flintridge City Council study session meeting on Tuesday night. Burger said he would also look into other concerns voiced by the council and the public.
The wheel washer, officials have said, will help to cut down on dust by cleaning the tires of trucks leaving the site, and the tarps — which at first will involve only five trucks — will impede dust from flying off the vehicles.
Officials have said the county-supervised project, whose first phase began 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.
Some speakers and council members felt the timeline offered by Burger should be shorter and other concerns needed to be addressed.
“We appreciate the effort and the input and being open, but we’ve now had a lot of time that’s passed and I think patience is growing short,” Councilman Greg Brown said, drawing applause from the audience, which included about 20 people. “I know it is with me. For instance, the wheel washers. We’ve heard about that from day one … that is not high tech. It’s just very frustrating.”
After the meeting, officials said a city letter would be sent to county Supervisor Kathryn Barger about their concerns over the project.
Mark Hunter of the Pasadena Audubon Society told the council he was “mystified” that the tarping effort was being implemented as a pilot program and said it was a requirement of the project. Hunter added the county had also paid $120,000 for two tire washes and he believed they should have been installed.
Burger responded that the tarps were not in the contract for the Big Dig and were not required by law.
“We’re monitoring,” Burger said. “This pilot will determine if this will work better” than not using tarps.
In response to Brown’s comment about the wheel washer, he said the county is “readjusting the road” to make sure it fits properly.
“It’s a shame it’s not done,” said Councilwoman Terry Walker.
During his presentation, Burger said that as of Aug. 1 there had been 49 days of hauling, 17,014 truck trips and 243,000 cubic yards of sediment removed. There have been up to 85 trucks a day used to haul sediment and a maximum of 425 truck trips, Burger said. The project, which supervisors approved in November 2017, is aimed at removing 1.7 million cubic yards of sediment behind the dam at Hahamonga 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.
Burger said a left turn signal at Windsor Avenue and Oak Grove had been installed on June 1, while intersection improvements at Oak Grove and Berkshire will not be installed prior to the start of school on Thursday, Aug. 15, because of a delay in receiving materials.
Burger said advanced air-quality monitoring devices are expected to be delivered this week. There are currently six air-quality monitoring stations. On April 2, county supervisors agreed to retain a consultant to place devices at the site and evaluate the data publicly.
According to Burger’s report, as of Aug. 1 there had been “very few” dust violations and “if there is an exceedance, operations are modified to prevent a reoccurrence.”
A violation occurred on Aug. 1, said Michael Cacciotti, a South Coast Air Quality Management District board member who attended the meeting. Dust had gotten into some tires and had been distributed, SCAQMD officials said.
Burger quoted an air-quality consultant from the Tetra Tech firm as saying “there is no indication of [nitrogen oxide] impact from the county’s haul truck operations.”
He said the daily time to haul sediment will change on Aug. 15 to 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. through Nov. 27 because La Cañada High School’s year will be underway. He did not speak about a lawsuit over the Big Dig involving the Arroyo Seco Foundation and the Pasadena Audubon Society.
Also giving a presentation was Elizabeth Krider of LCF 4 Healthy Air, a group that includes local residents and strives to reduce safety and health hazards to the community affected by the Big Dig. Though Krider said she was encouraged about working with the county, she acknowledged frustrations over the project.
Krider gave her own presentation, which addressed safeguarding public health. She said the county needed to install the tire wash and tarps as soon as possible as well as conduct an emissions verification study to make sure the project’s trucks are in compliance with current standards. Krider also said she wanted the cities of LCF and Pasadena to identify “public health safeguards” for a community safety plan.
La Cañada Unified School District Superintendent Wendy Sinnette gave a statement that noted that the district has upgraded air filtration at LCHS, hired its own environmental consultant and is working to put real-time air-quality monitoring in place.
Cacciotti, the SCAQMD official, said he would work with the LCF council to resolve concerns over the project.
A lawsuit involving the Arroyo Seco Foundation and the Pasadena Audubon Society against the Los Angeles County Flood Control District over the Big Dig was not addressed at the meeting. The organizations have sued over the environmental impact report for the project, stating that the reduction of the operation’s scope from 2.4 million cubic yards to 1.7 million didn’t consider whether new or additional mitigation measures or alternatives are needed to reduce its impact on nearby habitat, air quality, dust issues and the types of trucks that are used.
The two sides continue to negotiate and are scheduled to meet again on Oct. 15 in a downtown L.A. courtroom.
On Wednesday, Brown said a letter to Barger will be sent on the City Council’s behalf to promote the use of tarping on trucks as a more permanent solution — not merely a pilot program — and a phase two direct emissions measurement of the trucks.
“That clears the way of all the other arguments and concerns,” Brown said of the latter. “When the trucks are directly measured and meet the standards, then all the other concerns go away. It’s the most direct and simple way to do it.”
A second letter will be sent to the city of Pasadena to offer LCF’s assistance in collaborating on establishing standards for a community safety plan. LCF officials have previously requested a such a plan from the county.
“That’s a longer-term project,” Brown said.

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