Now that the desert season is here and everyone is complaining about the dust, is the county going to have a water truck out on Wheeler Road every day over the holiday weekend and at night, too? The dust is so bad out there from the road you can’t breathe! — Would Be Nice, Imperial
We’re getting to this one a bit late, as you can see. But with many more traffic-heavy weekends coming up through early next year, dust control from off-roading will be an issue.
Anytime there is an unpaved road that sees at least 50 motorists a day, it must be maintained (watered), Assistant APCD Officer Reyes Romero said.
Romero said Public Works maintained Wheeler just prior to the start of Thanksgiving holiday week. When he says maintained, he means the road was scraped with a blade, then it was sprayed by a water truck.
Romero can’t say whether the watering was done at any point during the actual peak of usage.
However, the APCD is an enforcement agency, he said, and it would have sent someone out to water the road if a complaint came in. Romero said the APCD’s complaint line is running 24 hours day; the number is 760-482-4606.
Wheeler is just one of a network of county access roads to both state and federally managed desert areas that are used by off-roaders, and all of those areas kick up a lot of dust during the off-highway vehicle season.
Still, the Air Pollution Control District maintains there is no evidence that OHV traffic affects federal and state pollution attainment levels. Romero said when the county is out of compliance for PM-10, or particles smaller than 10 microns, it isn’t from OHV traffic.
While there are no air-monitoring stations at areas like Wheeler Road, Glamis or Buttercup Valley (that would make sense, we think), no detectable problems have been picked up at the station in Calexico, at the APCD office in El Centro, Brawley, Westmorland or Niland.
Also, the state (Superstitions) and the federal government (Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area) have plans in place to deal with dust levels caused on their lands by OHV traffic, and that includes water trucks.
In fact, those plans are set to get more specific within the year. The APCD has asked the state and the feds to come back with more defined fugitive dust-control plans for dealing with OHV traffic. They are being developed now.