Letters to the editor

Why is it so hard to measure dust?

As a follow-up to my letter of two weeks ago regarding the Western North Carolina Regional Air Pollution Control Agency [Sept. 2], I would like to bring your readers up to date on my dealings with the agency regarding the Lowe’s Patton Avenue construction site.

Mountain Xpress printed Director Jim Cody’s responses to my letter, in which he said the site is “currently being investigated,” “the situation is bad,” and that “the agency was setting up an air monitor to determine the extent of the problem.”

When I spoke to Mr. Cody about the air monitor, I learned he had placed it in a location that was much farther from the construction site than my residence. In fact, the monitor was set up all the way at the end of the site, where no grading was currently being done. To reach the air monitor, dust would have to travel over 300 yards, through a buffer of trees and undergrowth, across Old Haywood Road, through the neighbor’s yard, and up to a neighbor’s pool deck, beside her swimming pool. That neighbor told me she wasn’t even having a problem with dust!

I asked Mr. Cody why the monitor was placed there, and he replied, “It’s placed where the population is.” There are two houses in that location, and there are two houses at my location (I happen to be the closest — within yards of grading). He then told me the location was determined by the inspectors, and he didn’t know why it was placed there. He told me he would leave it there for a week, and then move it to my yard. He became quite angry at my insistence that the monitor needed to be where the problem was, accused me of stating that the agency was “on the take” and basically lost his cool. When I called that to his attention, and that I had not stated they were on the take, he informed me that the whole office was “testy” and everybody was “on edge.” He became much more civil.

He did indeed have the monitor moved to my yard the very next day. (After the neighbor called and insisted he move it.)

Unfortunately, the monitor is to run only every other day, and many of the days on which it has been scheduled to run have fallen on a weekend or Labor Day, when no construction is taking place. The few days it has been scheduled to run on a working day, the monitor has failed to come on, or has come on and run only an hour or so.

After many calls to the agency, an inspector was sent out to repair the monitor. It took several trips to get the monitor to function properly. It is also noteworthy that on the construction days when the monitor did work properly, the construction crew did not work close to my house. I have camcorder recordings of those dates. Finally, on Sept. 14, the monitor ran the entire 24-hour period, and the construction crew was working beside my house. I have requested a copy of the reports on readings from the monitor for that day. I will be interested to see if there is a difference in “air quality” on that day, as compared to other days the monitor has run. (I’ve been informed that, through Sept. 11, the average particulate matter has been 43.16 mcg/cubic meter, with the highest being 58 on Aug. 27; during July and August, when topsoil was being moved and the dust was at its worst, no air monitor was installed, nor was I informed that that was an option).

Actually, the best indicator of the air quality is much easier to document: On bad days (Sept. 14, for instance), the air is filled with red dust, which settles everywhere inside and outside my home. My asthma reminds me that the air is filled with dust — I have to leave. Visitors to my home frequently have to leave because of eyes swelling shut, noses running and coughing and sneezing. My daughter and grandchildren visited from Raleigh, and all three of them had asthma attacks. The dust was so bad that I had checked into a hotel, and they had to come to the hotel to stay. The two grandchildren were sick for a week after returning to Raleigh.

If the Air Pollution Control Agency is monitoring appropriately, and if the construction company is abiding by regulations, as the agency tells me they are, then something seems to be awry.

Secondly, Mr. Cody assured me he would answer my questions regarding the site, but that it was “under investigation” right now. How long does the investigation take? This has been going on since July! I have had no response from him. I have asked for a copy of the law governing “particulate matter emanating from a construction site,” and I have asked to be informed of agency meetings. I have had no response from Mr. Cody, even though he assured me he would keep me abreast of happenings. I understand [that] a meeting was held Sept. 14 in Haywood County. Mr. Cody did not bother to advise me of that meeting, as he had promised he would.

I understand there will be another meeting (not yet scheduled) in October, at which time the construction company’s appeals for citations will be heard. I plan to be at that meeting with camcorder evidence of dust flying, the dates and times that I called the agency with complaints, and how long it took to get an inspector to the site. Unfortunately, I cannot document the agency’s actions, as that seems to be privileged information (i.e., “under investigation”).

Of great concern to me is that, with all the problems from this single site, I have to wonder about all the other construction sites in Buncombe and Haywood counties. I repeat my original question: “Is the agency doing its job?”

— Phyllis Pendleton

Agency Director Jim Cody’s response: “We’ve done everything we can, and I believe we’ve done as much as any other agency would have done. The people checking on the monitor have seen Ms. Pendleton just about every time they have reset the monitor. The monitor can only be run every other day, and there were some mechanical difficulties, which have been rectified. Samples were taken on Aug. 27, 29 and 31, and Sept. 2 and 3. We missed Sept. 9, 10 and 11. The monitor was started again on the 14th.[In regards to Pendleton’s complaint that she was not informed about the Sept. 14 meeting,] she was faxed the meeting location and agenda on Sept. 11. Pendleton also called the agency on the day of the meeting to inquire whether the developer’s citations would be taken up at the meeting. When David Brigman told her no, she said that she would not attend.

Bypass madness

If this massive I-26 project goes through as proposed, this city might as well change its name from Asheville to Smogville.

Every other city bypasses its through-traffic away from its downtown, but this project doesn’t. Instead, it runs eight lanes of traffic right through the city. D.O.T. thinks we want100,000-plus vehicles a day in the downtown area. The 10,000 to 15,000 tractor trailers a day should do wonders for our air quality and the mellow environment that makes downtown Asheville so special.

Why is there such a rush to push this project through before the community can really discuss it?

Why is such an important decision being left to a small select group?

Does anybody really want to swap the small-city ambience of Asheville for traffic, noise and pollution — when a lot of it can be routed around the city?

Call your state representatives and City Council members now, and find out what is going on.

— Cy Stanley

Good job explaining lousy immigration laws

Thank you for your thorough review of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRAIRA) [“Foreigner, go home!” Sept. 2]. When the act was signed into law by President Clinton, its passage went relatively unnoticed by the general United States population. This law, however, has had the most profound effects on immigration in U.S. history.

On a daily basis, I am confronted by individuals who are negatively affected by this new law. Too many individuals and their families find themselves “trapped” by the harshness of IIRAIRA. I appreciate that your article has gone beyond the usual stereotypes of immigrants and has presented factual hardships faced by individuals who could make positive and productive contributions to our society.

The United States is a globally focused nation. Immigrants founded this country, and we continue to need them to keep the country technologically, economically and physically healthy. Here in North Carolina, foreign doctors perform research that aids us to better understand debilitating diseases and find treatments to alleviate and even cure them. Foreign information-technology workers improve the technology that helps us to run our businesses more efficiently. Foreign athletes and entertainers provide us with performances that serve not only as diversions, but also as a means to expand our minds beyond our daily routines.

In short, immigration enriches our economy, our culture and our minds.

However, the new law has created a hostile and unforgiving environment, and too many immigrants are denied immigration benefits for themselves or their family members because of the new regulations. As you pointed out in your section about Sergey Ivanchenkov, husbands and wives, and often their children, can be separated for many years due to IIRAIRA.

The only hope for change is by presenting the effects of the new immigration law in such an informative manner.

— Alan S. Gordon

Alan S. Gordon has practiced immigration law for more than 21 years. He is the founding chairman of the Immigration Specialization Committee of the North Carolina State Bar; past chairman of the American Immigration Lawyers Association — Carolinas Chapter; and a Board Certified Immigration Specialist.

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