Beyond construction sites
Cattell's illegal dumping**
Construction sites are just one part of a larger industry. To understand the full impact of construction, you have to also consider production of concrete (and other pavements), mud on roads, dumps, quarries, and the recycling or disposal of concrete and other construction rubble.
Careless disposal of concrete slurry and wash water is polluting our lakes via storm sewers (right), polluting the soil around trees (stunting their growth), and adding toxic dust to the air. The chromium in concrete may be getting into our groundwater and drinking water.
Additional construction operations are also tracking mud and blowing dust:
Concrete production and recycling operations
The bottom line--health
There are tens of thousands of people in Dane County whose health is threatened by our dusty air. These are the sensitive population--people with heart disease, diabetes, emphysema, chronic obstructive lung disease, asthma, the elderly, and children. These sensitive people are concentrated in the downtown in schools, hospitals, and housing for the elderly. Officials--and responsible contractors--cannot continue to ignore these vulnerable members of our community.
The City (or State) wants to keep costs down for construction projects. For this reason, they are lax in planning and enforcing to reduce erosion and dust from construction.
Contractors feel competitive pressures to bid low on dust and erosion control measures.
So ultimately, it's the responsibility of government to raise the bar and enforce higher standards.
Everyone complains about escalating healthcare costs. Yet construction in Madison is adding to medical costs. When a child is rushed to the emergency room with a severe asthma attack, there's no smoking gun saying a contractor was responsible. But scientifically and statistically, the connection is there--the link has been proven with 50 years of public health data.
How are we going to balance the costs of construction... with the cost in lives and health care dollars? It's time to start the debate.
And what about the image of Madison as one of the most polluted (and unhealthy) cities in the nation? An image like that won't attract the growth that fuels construction.
Our lakes are too dirty to swim, our groundwater is becoming too contaminated to drink (at some wells), and now our air is on the "most polluted" list. Once upon a time, Madison was rated the "most livable" city.
This is not what SUSTAINABILITY looks like.
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* I have seen using fabric to protect steep slopes from water erosion at three sites in Madison, in order of occurrence: Target store at Hilldale, Terra Construction at Library Mall, and Findorff on Dayton St. The Findorff site next to the Kohl Center is the first I am aware of to protect soil from wind erosion. Some progress.
** Raymond P. Cattell, Inc., probably dumped this concrete slurry into the storm sewer on Johnson St. just west of State St. The work was on a block of concrete pavement in the street. There was no Cattell stamp on the concrete work, but since Cattell dumped slurry to the gutter further to the west, and is working to the east near the square, this is likely a Cattell deed. Not only was slurry allowed to run in the gutter to a storm sewer inlet, but waste (possibly leftover concrete) was dumped directly into the upstream inlet. Photo 6/13/11.