Air quality experts say dust from Point of the Mountain construction is not harmful

Local News

LEHI, Utah (ABC4 News) – The Division of Air Quality says the dust from mass grading at Point of the Mountain does not pose a health risk for Utahns.

There’s been a debate about the issue for quite some time.

In Salt Lake Tribune’s Monday paper, an article spoke about the lingering concerns over air-quality issues in the area.

ABC4 reached out to the DAQ for comment. Here’s what Bryce Bird, the Director, sent in an email:

Dust from construction and mining has always been and will continue to be a concern due to air quality, noise and nuisance issues.  We live in a dry and rapidly growing community and sand and gravel are necessary to build homes, businesses, schools, roads, etc.  The existing operations are growing to meet the demand and the surrounding property is being developed to accommodate growth.  Most of our complaints are from residents that are new neighbors to the dust generating operations.

The DAQ has performed fence-line air monitoring for PM10 surrounding gravel pits in Lehi, Cottonwood Heights, Brigham City, near Beck Street in Salt Lake City and St. George and has not monitored 24-hour average values that are above the EPA PM10 standard of 150 ug/m3.  There is dust leaving the property of the operations but the concentrations observed at any single monitoring site have been well below the established health standard.  When we do observe levels above the standard it is attributed to all dust sources including Utah’s west desert during regional high wind events.

Dust in Utah is regulated under a regulatory scheme that acknowledges that there are activities such as clearing land, farming and the production of aggregate materials that produce dust.  The regulations require sources to take proactive measures to minimize dust.  The measures represent the best available control measures (BACM) but do not prohibit all dust.  In general the dust is considered well controlled if it does not visually obscure a contrasting background by more than 20% on the property and 10% at the fence line when observed from a position with the sun behind the observer with observations every 15-seconds and averaged over 6-minutes.

Land disturbance that is greater than 1/4 acre requires a Fugitive Dust Control Plan (FCDP) that commits the operator to provide engineering controls to minimize dust.

If the wind speed is greater than 25 mph and the operator is complying with the FDCP, the opacity limits can be exceeded without violating the rule if they are unable to control dust while implementing BACM.

More information about the DAQ programs are available here:

https://deq.utah.gov/legacy/compliance/air-quality/stationary-source/fugitive-dust-control-requirements.htm

The best success that we have seen in addressing local concerns with dust are through bringing together the city, the residents and the company that operates the gravel pit.  The companies want to be good neighbors and are working hard to minimize dust.  Often the best way to meet the needs of the neighbors is by giving them the contact information for the company so that observations of dust can be addressed quickly.

DAQ encourages the sharing of complaints so that inspections can be targeted to address violations quickly.  The online complaint form is available here:

https://deq.utah.gov/legacy/compliance/air-quality/stationary-source/complaint-form.htm

The new inspection resources that have been funded by the legislature have been very helpful to provide more frequent inspections.  The overall compliance rate is high while some operators have been penalized for failing to meet the existing requirements.

Andrew Jensen lives in Sandy. He doesn’t agree with the DAQ and says these toxins are harmful and don’t just affect nearby residents in Utah County.

“You’ve got all the stuff from the machinery putting out the fuel that they use. the toxins that come from that, it can definitely be harmful,” said Jensen.

ABC4 reached out to Geneva Rock, the construction company in charge of operations at Point of the Mountain. The did not respond to our request for comment. 

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