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Citing Complaints, School District Halts ‘Grinding’ Work at Edna Maguire

Neighbors say dust and noise had been a “horrendous” problem since late July; district will now send asphalt and concrete off-site for grinding and eventual reuse.

The has halted some of the work being done as part of the 18-month  of , citing a slew of neighbor complaints and the need to focus on getting the site and the interim campus .

Though the district has received a range of complaints from Edna neighbors since , the past month saw a significant uptick as neighbors said the noise and dust caused by the grinding of asphalt and concrete had become unbearable. Complaints were made both to district officials directly and through the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

“Had the contractor applied for permits to build an industrial sized asphalt and concrete recycling facility in a residential neighborhood on a school property they would have been laughed at,” wrote Eric Somers, who lives on Lois Court, right along the perimeter of the Edna campus, in an Aug. 27 email to a number of local officials that included a video of the dust (attached at right). “And your folks are asking us to live with this?”

Aaron Richardson, spokesman for the air district, confirmed the complaints and said inspectors from his agency made “daily visits” to the Edna campus to follow up on neighbor complaints. But despite the furor, he said, contractors weren’t doing anything wrong.

“There were no violations,” Richardson said. “The school district has made an effort to mitigate those impacts voluntarily to work with the neighbors. It sounds like everything is under control.”

In an ironic twist, district officials chose to do the grinding onsite at Edna as opposed to trucking the materials over to a Richmond facility in an effort to be environmentally conscious, said Tim Ryan, the district’s director of maintenance and operations. The district intends to re-use the ground-down asphalt and concrete as a “road base” for the school’s new parking lot, he said, and now will truck out the materials for grinding and then bring them back onsite.

Ryan said the work was well within the bounds of the measures required of the district under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). As part of its environmental review before the project was approved, the district formulated a Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program (MMRP), a requirement of CEQA.

Though the work was not in violation of any regulations, Ryan said the district decided to halt the grinding in the interests of being a good neighbor.

“The noise and dust have had a major impact on the neighbors, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “And we shouldn’t be spending our time on anything that takes us away from making sure the campus is safe and ready for students on Sept. 10.”

For the school’s neighbors, the district’s decision was a welcome relief. Debbie Friedman, who lives on nearby Vasco Drive, said the past month has been  “reprehensible.”

“We were desperate for something to change,” she said. “We’ve had this massive dust cloud all over the entire neighborhood. And the response has been horrendous. It’s been such a frustrating and disappointing experience. But now we’re cautiously optimistic.”

Stay tuned for much more schools-related news in our Back to School Guide, including info on drop-off and pickup flows at Edna and a list of what work won't be finished by Sept. 10 at each of the schools.

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Rico August 30, 2012 at 04:37 PM
I don't understand the BAAQMD saying that there were no violations when the neighbors say that there was a huge dust cloud over the area. Dust control is one of the most important concerns of any large excavating project, or any large construction project. I have a friend who is an industrial hygienist, he is now working on a large dam construction job out in the east bay hills. His job is to maintain electronic air monitors for the next 5 years out there. There are many water trucks in use each day to mitigate dust. The BAAQMD says that it is fine and dandy to dust-up a neighborhood with toxic asphaltic dust, but you better not burn any wood to keep warm this winter or you will be fined. Hypocrites.

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