For residents on the south end of Brookfield living with dust from the Material
Services vast limestone quarry just across 47th Street in McCook has been part of life for as long as anyone can remember.
But no one can remember this much dust.
A week before Christmas a wave of limestone dust, kicked up by a 26 mph wind from the south, blanketed Brookfield from Eberly and Oak Avenues between 47th Street and Shields Avenue.
At the time, it was tough to tell just how much dust had blown over from the quarry, which stretches all the way to 55th Street, because snow still covered the ground.
By Christmas the dust, literally, settled. On roofs, in gutters, on lawns and bushes, on driveways, sidewalks and streets. Swimming pool covers, outdoor hot tubs, windows, fences, porches?”covered in white powder.
The dust found its way inside, too. Furnace filters and, presumably, duct work, were caked with it.
Last Monday night, some 75 to 80 residents predominantly from Brookfield’s southwest side showed up at the meeting of the Brookfield village board demanding answers from representatives of the quarry, who tried to put a good face on a public relations disaster.
“I appreciate the fact that you want to work with us, but it’s already going on four weeks,” said Jeanet Cordero, who lives in the 4500 block of Madison Avenue. “When are things going to start happening at our residences?”
According to Dan Daughbert, vice president of community relations for Material Services, the Dec. 15 incident was a highly unusual situation, one the company hadn’t experienced in the past.
“We believe strong winds from the south caused dust from the aggregate process to travel two- tenths of a mile into the neighborhood,” Daughbert said. “We’ve taken counter measures so that it never happens again.”
But it wasn’t until Ben Bravo, a Raymond Avenue resident, first called the Material Services hotline to complain and then called on the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
After seeing the problem, Material Services sent out street sweeping crews to clean the streets which were coated with dust.
“On Friday I went over there and on 47th Street there had to be a quarter-inch of dust on the street,” said Brookfield Trustee Alan Dorobiala. “And the trucks kept kicking it up.”
Trustee Catherine Colgrass Edwards said that the street sweepers didn’t appear to be making much of difference.
“It left a white trail the width of the sweeper,” she said. “In other areas it was quite thick. It was like concrete it was so hard.”
But the streets were just part of the problem. Bravo said he contacted a professional cleaning service to see what it would cost to have his house cleaned. The estimate was $3,900, Bravo said.
Daughbert said that residents who have property complaints as a result of the dust can call the Material Services hotline at 1-866-WE-HEAR-U and someone should be able to respond in a matter of days. Residents at the village board meeting also filled out sheets of paper listing their names, addresses and phone numbers and gave them to Daughbert.
“Homes will be inspected,” Daughbert said. “We have a special group to meet with individual homeowners. We’ll make appointments and work to resolve it. We’ll continue to be in the neighborhood.”
Daughbert, however, did not specify just what shape that resolution might take or even the extent of the problem in Brookfield.
“In another seven to 10 days we should have a good idea on what happened,” Daughbert said.
In the meantime, Brookfield Village President Michael Garvey took heat for what some residents perceived as a slow response by the village. Bravo complained that Village Manager Riccardo Ginex simply directed him to McCook and Material Services.
Two other residents said that the village could do more to put pressure on Material Services to consider the impact of their operations on residents.
One suggested the village pass an ordinance requiring all trucks leaving the quarry to have tarps over them to prevent dust from blowing into Brookfield. Another said the village should regularly monitor air quality in order to illustrate the problem over time.
Garvey said the village has already contacted the EPA and is conducting its own investigation.
However, he said, there’s only so much jurisdiction he has over the quarry.
“We have only a certain amount of regulatory power over this situation,” said Garvey, who added he thought the quarry should notify residents of their options with regard to having Material Services inspect their homes.
Cordero suggested that the dust is a health issue and that her two children, who have asthma, were harmed by the latest episode.
“Since mid-December, their asthma has been spiraling out of control,” she said.
Rich Roleck a 40-year Brookfield resident who lives in the 4200 block of Elm Avenue wondered what the long-term exposure to the quarry dust may have meant to him and his family.
“My wife had cancer. I had cancer. Is it because of you?” Roleck asked. “I don’t know. As a resident, I know you have to make money, but think of us.”
Several residents said that the dust problem has grown worse in the last two years, ever since, Bravo said, the quarry has added a second shift to the operation of its rock crusher.
“I’ve been living here for six years,” said one resident, “and it’s not just one incident. It’s gotten progressively worse. You can’t ever enjoy the outside. You can see the plume of dust coming across the street.”
Others came to voice long-simmering dissatisfaction with quarry operations, complaining about everything from blasting that results in cracked sidewalks, driveways and foundations to a perceived steady increase in truck traffic in recent years.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on,” said Carmella Castellucci, a resident of the 4500 block of Raymond Avenue. “This problem has been going on for a long time.”