A dust cloud rises last week on Munjoy Hill as a tree is felled on the site of the former Adams School. Dust levels will be more closely monitored after residents complained.
By Dennis Hoey
PORTLAND – The developers of a $5.5 million housing project on Munjoy Hill pledged Monday night to control the clouds of construction dust that have concerned some residents.
The former Marada Adams Community School property sits on soil that once supported a grenade factory, a lead paint factory and a trolley garage. The site was converted to school use in 1958.
There is arsenic and lead in the soil, but those substances exist at levels that would not pose a danger to the public's health, the developers say.
"There is nothing we have identified on the site that is toxic," said Jedd Steinglass, who is the developer's environmental specialist.
Avesta Housing, which is in the early stages of building 16 townhouse condominiums at Munjoy, Moody, Vesper and Wilson streets, met with Munjoy Hill residents partly to answer their concerns and also to lay out its plans for suppressing the dust that has risen from the site since construction began this month.
Avesta Housing and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection were flooded with complaints about 10 days ago after a resident videotaped a dust cloud rising from the site as a tree was felled.
Construction activity at the site was halted for two days following the incident, which led to Monday's community forum.
At the meeting, Steinglass said a sprinkler system will be installed and the site will now be watered on a regular basis to suppress dust.
Seth Parker, Avesta's development officer, told an audience of about 50 people that Avesta, with general contractor Great Falls Construction, will also issue emails to keep residents current on construction activity.
The project is scheduled to be completed in May 2013.
Some residents were still not happy with how the project's kickoff was handled and others remain skeptical that the dust won't be a continuing problem.
"My organic vegetable garden is covered with dust. Would you eat my vegetables?" asked Erin Saveall.
Timothy Ouillette chided the developers for maintaining poor communications with the neighbors. And he added, "When you see a plume of dust coming from a grenade factory ... that's bad."
"Going forward, we need to make sure this doesn't happen again," Parker told the crowd.
After the meeting, Matt Thayer said he remains skeptical about the developers' promises.
"You wouldn't believe what it was like before (the dust incident). It was like the Wild West. No one was watching what these guys were doing," Thayer said.
Representatives from the DEP and the federal Environmental Protection Agency attended the meeting at the East End Community School, organized by the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization.
"We don't approve of what we saw in the video but it was one event. What we do know is that one dust plume coming from the site does not pose a significant risk (to public health)," said Nick Hodgkins of the Maine DEP.
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: