Dust control rules and regulations have become more strict

In response to an EPA ultimatum, the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), Maricopa County, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and other regulatory agencies have devised a State Implementation Plan to bring the Phoenix area into compliance with federal dust-control requirements. Consequently, the County is cracking down on dust-control violations, with particular scrutiny on construction sites.

Fines handed out to contractors and developers are multiplying as the County takes additional measures to meet the EPA deadline. In 2007, fines paid for Maricopa County air quality violations exceeded $5.3 million, up from $3.7 million in 2006. Individual fines in December 2007 reached $98,500. The assessment trend is continuing in 2008.

In the Phoenix area, Maricopa County Air Quality Department (MCAQD) has increased the number of compliance inspectors (from eight to more than 50) and is expected to have more than 90 in the field before the end of 2008. Additionally, MCAQD has revised the local air-quality rules to include more stringent standards for fine particulate matter and to refine detection methods for determining pollutant concentrations.

The regulatory burden grew heavier on March 26, 2008, when subcontractors became regulatory targets and the County deployed an expanded inspection force.

The Maricopa County Air Quality Department has posted a draft of the more stringent rules at www.maricopa.gov/aq (click on “Rules & Regulations”). These new measures(see a one-page summary) include limiting track-out, cutting time between when land is cleared and construction started, and prohibiting visible dust from crossing property lines.

To comply with the crackdown on dust emissions, local contractors and developers must implement effective control measures and work strategies. (Subcontractors are not required to have a dust-control plan, per se, but, as noted above, they must register and pay a fee. In addition, subcontractors can be cited for violations of their own making.) Developing a plan usually begins with a dust-control permit, which the County requires on all jobsites that will disturb more than a tenth of an acre.

To obtain a permit, a contractor must first submit a dust-control plan for County approval. A dust-control plan involves the implementation of control measures before, during and after conducting any dust-generating operation. (On sites larger than five acres, the permit holder must designate an employee responsible for dust-control plan compliance.) Common control measures include watering, using wind barriers, maintaining and cleaning vehicles, chemically stabilizing the soil, and using track-out control devices. To develop a dust-control plan and contingency measures, it may be useful to engage the services of an environmental consulting firm.

Once a dust-control plan has been formulated, it is the contractor’s responsibility to: read and understand the dust-control permit and plan and have them available at the jobsite; use contingency control measures when primary controls are ineffective; implement the dust-control plan and ensure that all employees, workers and subcontractors know their responsibilities; monitor the worksite for compliance with the dust-control plan; and keep a daily log monitoring the implementation and effectiveness of the control measures.

While it is not officially required, contractor designation of a dust-control site coordinator has shown to be a sound and, for all practical purposes, necessary component of a dust-control plan. The site coordinator must have authority over dust issues, and he should have a fully trained backup to serve in his capacity during his absence.

The consequences of noncompliance are not limited to the fines discussed earlier. Any entity or person who violates the MCAQD rules may be subject to injunctive measures that bring all work to a halt. Further, violators may be subject to misdemeanor or felony charges. Moreover, if a contractor fails to comply, the owner or developer may also be held responsible for the violation.