‘The dust was so heavy in my lungs’: I-70 construction pollutes nearby homes, businesses

Local News

DENVER (KDVR) — An ongoing Interstate 70 demolition project is causing a headache to some businesses in the area.

The Colorado Department of Transportation’s Central 70 project has been underway now for a few years in Denver.

A large portion of the project is the Mile High Shift, which moved traffic to the new lower portion of the highway and demolition began on the viaduct above it.

“CDOT is a big company you are battling right there. We are very small people,” said Yadira Sanchez, whose family’s restaurant sits just south of the construction.

Sanchez said her family’s restaurant, Taqueria Sanchez, has been in the neighborhood for the past 12 years. They lease their restaurant’s building and don’t feel like they, as renters, have been supported throughout the process of construction.

“They tell us this will only last a month. That’s a lot. Imagine you being without work for a whole month and how much that sets you back,” Sanchez said.

According to CDOT, the owner of the building was compensated for an easement involving the Central 70 project.

“That is all part of the federal requirement for the Uniform Act,” CDOT spokesperson Stacia Sellers said. The law is meant to make sure property owners are treated fairly during any federal or federally assisted projects.

But Sanchez said the dust from concrete and debris is unbearable. She said they’ve seen a decrease in clientele and are worried about their own health.

“I had to go home because the dust was so heavy in my lungs that I almost felt like I was going to have an asthma attack,” Sanchez said.

Sellers said they understand the frustration the restaurant is having. She said they are working as fast as they can through the residential areas to get construction done with.

“Of course, we are doing everything in our power to minimize the dust the best we can,” Sellers said.

CDOT has several misters and water tanks at the project, and since receiving Sanchez’s concerns, they have increased those.

They are meant to “essentially mist the dust that’s coming through the demolition so it can settle down on the ground and not spread out to the community,” Sellers said.

But Sanchez said the water only does so much from keeping the dust from invading their area.

There are also five real-time air quality monitors on the project’s property, Sellers said.

“We haven’t had any exceedances. We do get alerts if we are getting to a certain threshold, that way we can go out and see what construction activity is taking place,” Sellers said.

CDOT keeps all the air quality reports up-to-date on their website.

Air quality monitors are located adjacent to the project in order to monitor dust, known as PM10. If PM10 levels rise, the contractor is alerted, which allows the team to identify and mitigate the levels before they exceed regulation levels.

The air quality exceedance report details instances and action taken whenever one of the Central 70 air quality monitors sends an alert.

“We are providing car-wash vouchers to those directly adjacent to the I-70 viaduct,” Sellers said.

Sellers said they’ve also purchased hundreds of tacos from Taqueria Sanches for crews working on the project, but Sanchez said that just isn’t enough.

“Losing clients and business to COVID, now we have the construction of the I-70 happening. I don’t know how we are staying afloat,” Sanchez said.

“No one wants to sit and enjoy a meal while all this is going on in the background,” Sanchez said.

The demolition in Sanchez’s area is only expected to last around three weeks, according to CDOT.

CDOT created a 24/7 hotline for concerns on dust, noise and vibration. Those with comments or concerns should call: 833-C70-INFO.

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