FORUM: Who are residents to believe?

By FRED BARTZ -- Temecula | Posted: July 8, 2010
Two letters published on July 1 attempt to convince us that there will be no health impacts from the proposed Liberty Quarry. One letter quotes a Patrick Hessel, Ph.D. First, to be clear, Patrick Hessel is not a medical doctor, but one of Granite Construction's paid consultants. Since Hessel is not a medical doctor, he does not treat patients.
Dr. Daniel Robbins, referenced in one letter, is a medical doctor, and specifically, a pediatrician. He treats infants and children, many of whom have breathing and respiratory ailments. Robbins sees the impacts of bad air quality on his young patients, which logic dictates makes him more of an expert than a non-medical doctor doing a theoretical study of what might or might not occur.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration states: "Crystalline silica has been classified as a human lung carcinogen. Additionally, breathing crystalline silica dust can cause silicosis, which in severe cases can be disabling, or even fatal. The respirable silica dust enters the lungs and causes the formation of scar tissues, thus reducing the lungs' ability to take in oxygen." This same concern is echoed by both the Environmental Protection Agency and the American Lung Association.
Certainly no one is going to develop crippling illnesses from short-term exposure to crystalline silica. However, the Liberty Quarry project is planned for 75 years, with up to 10 blasts weekly, which will provide area residents with long-term opportunity for exposure.
Additionally, if there is no health impact, why does the draft environmental impact report speak about quarry employees wearing either face masks or respirators?
These two letters identified only one of the many health issues. There is no reference to the 1,600 truck trips and the diesel particulates that will be emitted from these vehicles. EPA talks about: "Short-term exposures to particles (hours or days) can aggravate lung disease, causing asthma attacks and acute bronchitis, and may also increase susceptibility to respiratory infections."
Regarding one letter's quote: "scientific document on the site-specific project done by Riverside County," but this document was not prepared by Riverside County; rather it was prepared by an outside consultant using much of the data provided by Granite Construction. Further, much of the data referenced in the draft EIR has been challenged by a number of notable sources. But Riverside County has stated: "The proposed project would result in significant and unavoidable impacts to air quality and traffic/transportation, which cannot be mitigated to below a level of significance."
One letter references: "Granite has offered to do air monitoring in the city of Temecula." This would be after the quarry is operational. Since this proposed project has been in-process for five years, why has Granite not already done air monitoring at the proposed quarry site to establish a true baseline of air-quality data?
So I ask you, are we to believe a Granite Construction-paid, non-medical doctor, or more than 100 medical doctors who have firsthand experience with patients and have signed up opposing the quarry?
FRED BARTZ lives in Temecula.
Posted in Commentary on Thursday, July 8, 2010

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