Dust Issues Force Halt in Big Dig Trucking Operations

Trucking operations at the site of the Devil’s Gate Dam sediment removal project were suspended last Thursday, but could resume as early as the end of this week, a county spokesman said.
Photo by Wes Woods II / OUTLOOK
Trucking operations at the site of the Devil’s Gate Dam sediment removal project were suspended last Thursday, but could resume as early as the end of this week, a county spokesman said.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works has temporarily stopped trucking operations for the Devil’s Gate Dam sediment removal project over ongoing dust issues, with work expected to resume as soon as the end of this week or early next week, officials said recently.
Work was halted last Thursday, Sept. 5, after the county sent out an email and posted a notice on the project’s website at pw.lacounty.gov/swe/devilsgate.
“We would like to resume hauling as soon as possible,” said L.A. County Public Works Assistant Deputy Director Steve Burger in an email Wednesday. “That could be as early as the end of this week or early next week. However, hauling will not begin until the county is confident that the best possible measures are in place to mitigate dust from the tires.”
Burger said hauling was suspended because of dust and mud that was observed on the tires of trucks leaving the reservoir, even after a tire wash was established.
“Public Works is working with the contractor to develop a plan that includes running at least two tire washes in a series,” Burger said. “In the meantime, the contractor is performing maintenance activities and installing additional dust mitigation measures.”
At the La Cañada Unified School District meeting on Tuesday night, Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said the pause in the work on the so-called Big Dig was discussed at a meeting on Friday that included county Supervisor Kathryn Barger, some district board members, La Cañada Flintridge City Councilwoman Terry Walker and Sinnette.
“We talked about the dirt and dust,” Sinnette said. “The supervisor said the reason it was halted is that they’re reinserting the wheel wash. It will be a three-station wheel wash now. I think with three stations, as [each truck] passes through for every trip it will greatly mitigate dust and dirt that has been problematic.” The project involves dozens of large trucks hauling sediment away.
After the meeting, Sinnette said a single wheel wash had been installed recently at the site near La Cañada High School. On the day before the stoppage, a worker could be seen washing down truck tires with a hose as the vehicles left the site.
Sinnette said there will be town hall meetings regarding tailpipe emissions (for haul trucks) and progress to date on the project at 8:45 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24, at the school district offices. Members of the county, LCF 4 Healthy Air and LCUSD will be in attendance, she said.
Steven Frasher, a county Public Works spokesman, said in an interview this week that people in the community had “reported some things that weren’t being resolved to the satisfaction of any of us. As we continue to learn from this whole process, the magnitude of the project, we’re addressing issues as they arise and this is one that needed a bit of pause.”
Frasher said the trucks had been reassigned to other projects during the suspension at the Big Dig. He said some workers that remain are doing small maintenance projects within the work site, but nothing for trucking operations.
When the project restarts, the website will have the updated information, Frasher said.
Elizabeth Krider of LCF 4 Healthy Air said her organization appreciates the responsiveness of Public Works, which has acknowledged that dust control at the site is a challenge. LCF 4 Healthy Air includes local residents and strives to reduce safety and health hazards to the community affected by the project.
“However, the dust is not staying inside the trucks nor inside the reservoir where it should stay,” Krider said. “Everyone can see that — and has seen it all summer. It’s time to have the dust control that was promised to our communities when the project was approved. The public health of students, educators and residents depends on it.”
Officials have said the 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.
The project, which 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.
To date, there have been 71 hauling days and 24,818 truck trips removing approximately 360,000 cubic yards of material, Burger said.
In early August, county officials said it would take up to three weeks to install a wheel washer and start a pilot tarping program to cut down on dust at the project. It was reported that a dust violation occurred on Aug. 1, said Michael Cacciotti, a South Coast Air Quality Management District board member who attended a La Cañada Flintridge City Council study session meeting last month. Dust had gotten into some tires and had been distributed, SCAQMD officials said.

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