Gilroyans who live near an in-the-works subdivision west of Rancho Hills Drive are fed up with the "excess" amount of dust being kicked up as construction crews grade the site. However, they aren't staying quiet about it.
Over half a dozen speakers addressed the during its meeting Monday night to complain about the inconvenience—and health risks—they're facing thanks to the project, which is being .
"This has impacted the residents of the area greatly," said Janet Espersen, who lives near the construction zone. "There is cost and time for homeowners to clean up their personal property, clean up their patios, decks, flat surfaces and outdoor furniture. They have to conduct more frequent pool cleaning and can't use air conditioners for fear of bringing dust into their homes."
The dust, residents said, comes in great plumes because crews aren't watering the ground, which would compact the dust and keep it from floating up.
"By not watering to keep the dust down, the contractor is saving time and profit and passing the cost onto the homeowners in the neighborhood," said John Litzinger, an area resident who said he is a licensed engineer.
Scrapers and ground graders are also being overloaded and traveling at speeds that send the dust flying.
"The graders need to slow down," said Phil Williams, who lives in the vicinity of the construction with his wife, who also spoke during the meeting. Williams said he is concerned for his wife's health as she suffers from severe dust allergies and has been experiencing excessive blockage and nose bleeds.
"I am very concerned about my wife's health and the health of the people of Gilroy," he said. "We want to live here for a good long time with people who are healthy and not people who are impacted by these developers."
Kristi Abrams, the city's community development director, laid out to the council what steps the city is taking to address the dust issue. She said that, for the size of the project, the amount of dust being created is within industry standards.
Furthermore, the soil found in the area makes it nearly impossible to employ conventional dust abatement techniques.
"The soil is a powdery material with a very narrow range of acceptable moisture content," she explained. "That's why we can't just go out and soak the site. It's very tricky."
Abrams admitted that while there is a lot of dust, over watering it would make the surface slippery and dangerous for crews and equipment.
The contractor has responded to complaints about dust by employing a total of four watering trucks, more than most sites of this size have, Abrams noted, as well as reducing the load of graders. Additional city staff oversight has been introduced and recommendations from a soils engineer are being implemented.
"The engineer recommended pre-mixing dry areas, adding soap and other soil binders to the water and watering haul roads more frequently," she said.
Mayor Pro Tempore Cat Tucker said she has personally gone to the site. While there, she’s observed dust trucks “going super fast.” She also noted the material the residents are complaining about is better described as dirt.
"This is actually dirt," she said. "I don't know why people are calling it dust. It's fine and really hard to sweep and clean up."
Abrams responded to Tucker's report on the truck speeds by calling them standard.
Because the issue was brought before the council during its public comment period, no action could be taken. Mayor Al Pinheiro assured the Rancho Hills residents and neighbors the city would closely monitor the situation over the next two weeks of expected grading.