By Samuel Temblador
Since moving into an apartment across from Echo Park Lake two months ago, Jared Dunkin has had to put up with sheets of dust swept up by the construction activity at the lake. Along with his car, Dunkin’s dust-beleaguered porch, which faces the lake, gets covered in dust every three days and has to be cleaned once a week. “Every three days, my shoes leave shoe prints on the wood floor,” said Dunkin.
The dust, however, is only “slightly annoying” said Dunkin, who added that he has not experienced any dust-related respiratory problems. In fact, Dunkin said construction noise is more bothersome than dust as earth movers, trucks, and other construction equipment rumble across the now dry lake bed. But even the noise has not been that bad, he said. At least the workers were not using jackhammers.“That would be way worse.”
Dunkin and the other residents who live, work and walk around Echo Park Lake have been exposed to a year of dust, noise and other construction related inconveniences as the lake and surrounding park is remade under a $65 million water-quality improvement project that is expected to be completed next spring. While concerns about the health impact of the dust have been raised at community meetings devoted to the lake clean up, residents like Dunkin don’t seem too be worried.
According to Michelle Vargas, a public information officer for the Department of Public Works, 60 truckloads of dirt are carried away from the construction site each day, Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m to 4 p.m. The flow of truck traffic is expected to last through November of this year.
During a recent community meeting, Joyce Dillard said that “the dirt’s so dry it’s going all over the place.” But Vargas said a tanker truck spraying water in the area is meant to keep the dust down several times a day. “Dust is mitigated four times a day, twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon.”
Still, clouds of dust can still be seen floating near the lake, especially when trucks loaded with dirt emerge from the construction area on Echo Park and Bellevue avenues. The Environmental Impact Report for the project warned residents that the construction activity would have a significant impact on some measure of air quality and noise.
David Basilio, a neighborhood resident for 9 years who lives in an apartment on Echo Park Avenue,said h e had not really thought about the health consequences posed by the dust and construction activity.
“Truthfully, I don’t know what it might be doing from a health perspective. I hadn’t really thought about it,” said Basilio. The area has “always been dusty. I guess there’s been more but not wild amount.”
The multicolored Cathedral Center of St. Paul, home to Los Angeles’ Episcopal diocese, rises directly across the street from one of the entrances used by trucks and other construction vehicles to enter and exit the lake. But church spokesman and Cannon for Community Relations Robert Williams said that the construction activity has caused no problems.
“Any minor inconvenience created by the flow of trucks is temporary and necessary to completion of the overall project,” Williams said. “Parishioners participating in Sunday services experience few problems with access or noise because construction is suspended on weekends.” (Construction work does take place on Saturdays).
Some residents said the construction-related dust and noise are worth putting up with. While his car like many others regularly gets a fresh coat of dust; Greg, an Echo Park Avenue resident for 14 years, said that is to be expected.
“I can’t wait until next Spring when it’s done,” said Greg, who declined to provide his last name. But “if you want to see improvements, you have to live with the process. The pay off is gonna be a better park.”
Samuel Temblador is a UCLA student from South L.A. interested in journalism and communications.