December 20, 2014

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Contractors fix dust issue at Lorain tunnel site

A layer of dust darkens the snow last month at the Black River Wharf boat launch in Lorain. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

A layer of dust darkens the snow last month at the Black River Wharf boat launch in Lorain. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

LORAIN — The “fugitive dust” has been captured.

Fugitive dust — the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s term for dust and debris coming from construction projects — was a problem around Lorain’s underground tunnel project, but the EPA says the problem has been substantially reduced.

EPA spokesman Mike Settles said dust and debris polluting the area around the project off Broadway and East 14th Street was blown from a 51-foot conveyor belt moving debris from the 180-foot-deep tunnel.

The $65 million project began in September 2012 and is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2015. It will hold 11 million gallons of liquid sewage that previously flooded basements or flowed untreated into Lake Erie.

The 5,562-foot-long concrete-lined tunnel will be 19 feet in diameter. About 1,000 cubic feet of dirt and debris are removed daily, Settles said.

The pollution blackened snow by Black River Wharf and the Lorain Port Authority building. It prompted Robert Fowler, owner of Grumpy’s Bait Bucket at Broadway and East 14th, to complain to the EPA on Dec. 13 and Jan. 29.

Since the complaints, Settles said the two main project contractors, Detroit-based Walsh Construction Co. and Super Excavators, a Wisconsin-based tunneling company, have addressed the problem.

A $17,000 plastic chute was brought in to capture debris at the end of the conveyor, and foam and water are used to keep debris from blowing off the pile before it is trucked to a dump. Settles said Lorain is responsible for oversight because it is a city project, but EPA could have cited the contractors for a violation if they had been unresponsive.

“It’s been quite the contrary,” he said. “They’ve taken a number of steps to improve the situation.”

In January, Fowler worried that the pollution would hurt his business in the spring and summer. He said the city and EPA had been unresponsive. However, on Wednesday, Fowler said he’d seen far less pollution recently.

“They’ve cut back enough that I’m not as concerned with the wash down into the (Black River),” he said. “The EPA’s been very responsive.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.