Director: Dust from Garfield County airport project should be over soon
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
RIFLE, Colo. – Some neighbors of the Garfield County Regional Airport, located south and east of Rifle, are not happy about the dust being kicked into the air by an ongoing runway realignment project.
But, pledged airport director Brian Condie, the misery should be over soon.
Condie said the majority of the earth-moving work should be finished by the end of July or early August, and that contractors have already begun putting the topsoil down that was removed and stored when the project began in April.
He said that the topsoil, when watered by one of seven watering trucks that are putting down 100,000 gallons of water per day, develops a crust on top that is resistant to the winds that regularly blow over the airport site.
The watering trucks have been spreading 3 million gallons of water per week at the site, Condie said, to contend with the consequences of disturbing 3 million cubic yards of dirt.
“It’s the type of project where we’re not going to be able to mitigate everything,” said county environmental health officer Jim Rada at a meeting with the Garfield County commissioners on Monday. “The dirt is like talcum powder.”
Condie and Rada each conceded that there have been numerous complaints from residents about the dust. Some have been from people living in Rifle who may be confusing smoke from the Meadow Creek Fire with dust from the airport, Condie said.
He said he has invited every caller to come to the airport for a tour and to talk about their concerns, but that so far only one man has done so.
Rada said he does not know how many complaints have come in, and that the volume “comes in waves, depending on the weather.”
But both Rada and Condie said that none of the calls included any specific claims of health impacts from the dust.
The county has been working with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and with contractors to keep the dust to a minimum and comply with state air quality requirements, Rada said.
The project is scheduled to be finished in November, when the airport will reopen for business.
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Pitkin County administrators are proposing a more than $142 million budget for 2020, which is about $6 million less than this year because of fewer construction projects and capital improvements.