Michael A. Sawyers
CUMBERLAND — Efforts to contain lead dust generated by sandblasting on the underside of the Interstate 68 bridge that spans Cumberland have been successful, according to the certified hygienist hired to monitor that air quality.
“The entire time blasting takes place, the air quality is being checked by four monitors,” said Anthony Kefflak, certified hygienist for Soil and Land Use Technology Inc., Washington, D.C.
“So far there have been no problems keeping the lead readings to the level that existed before the work started,” Kefflak said.
Blasting cleans and roughens the deteriorated subsurface of the bridge, making it ready for primers and a new protective coating. The bridge was built 43 years ago.
This week, blasting occurred above South Johnson Street near its intersection with Greene Street and near homes and businesses. Derick Winfield of the State Highway Administration said monitors detected no lead in the air during that work.
Filters from the air quality monitors are shipped overnight to laboratories and reports are received the next day.
“We built the hygienist’s role into the specifications for the project,” said Charlie Brown, SHA’s area engineer. “In addition, we required personal air monitoring.”
Separate monitors are placed near or even on the workers who are sandblasting, Brown explained.
Although complaints have been received during the sandblasting this week, they have been about the loss of parking spaces and other disruptions such as at the drive-through lane at PharmaCare on Greene Street, Winfield said. There have been no complaints about the air quality.
The large tarps seen hanging from the bridge are meant to contain the dust.
Sometimes those tarps reach to the ground, but other times they extend only to a suspended work platform, according to Michael Forakis of Titan Industrial Services Inc., the general contractor for the $16 million, two-year project that began in January.
Add a large vacuum, strong enough to suck the air out of your house in 10 minutes, according to Kefflak, and the chance of dust escaping is remote.
The nasty, lead-tainted dust goes into a collector, is safely encapsulated and is kept at Titan’s hazardous waste storage site for disposal at an approved location.
Following completion of the blasting between Johnson and Bridge streets, Titan will blast the section from Bridge Street to the tracks of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.
“That will close blasting for this year,” Forakis said. More than two weeks worth of blasting days were lost this summer because of the wet weather, he added.
In spite of that, Winfield said the overall project is 56 percent complete and 20 percent ahead of schedule.
New lighting has been installed on the bridge, but has not yet been activated. Work on the road surface is nearly complete.
Contact Michael A. Sawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org.