The county started repaving a section of Franklin Adams on Aug. 19. For over two weeks now the residents living in the area have endured choking clouds of caliche dust. Dust clouds that at times are completely opaque. The high winds blow the dust hundreds of feet into residential areas where it settles over everything. It enters homes particularly attics, garages and other buildings that have any cracks or openings – the dust ends up covering every surface.
This project has been mismanaged in my opinion from the start. The FA road-bed was redone about a dozen years ago. It was not failing, it was the cheap surface coating that was failing; a new surface is all that was needed. The county tore up the old surface, ground it up and compacted it with sheep foot rollers. At this point the road-bed was even better and it could have been quickly repaved.
But a couple of days later they dug up the freshly compacted road-bed and replaced it with a thick layer of caliche. This is when the dust clouds really got bad. Ninety percent of this dust is caused by the through traffic to and from the Ricardo area south of Kingsville. This traffic could have been easily detoured to Sixth Street bypassing FA, but this simple precaution was never considered.
Caliche dust is approximately 30 percent silica dioxide (sand). According to OSHA the dust has a Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of 33 milligrams per cubic meter. To put this in perspective, this is equivalent to 0.2 teaspoons of dust distributed in a room 12 foot square and 8 foot high. I am sure the dust clouds I’ve seen exceed the PEL by orders of magnitude.
According to OSHA, the dust has a lengthy rap sheet. Repeated over exposure can cause acute silicosis that is an incurable lung disease that is “typically fatal.” It has also been classified by some agencies as a carcinogen. In addition, it increases the risk of tuberculosis, kidney disease, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and other health issues. And to think this dust is blowing everywhere - that’s just great!