Environmental group troubled by construction

Dirt blowing from a building site can affect people with breathing problems, a
ward leader said.

The mounds of dirt in the construction site for the Student Health and Wellness Center concern Susquehanna Pick Up/Clean Up Inc., a local environmental organization. LUCY THORTON FOR THE TEMPLE NEWS

The construction of the new Student Health and Wellness Center on 15th Street near Montgomery Avenue has left large dirt piles and raised environmental and health concerns from Susquehanna Clean Up/Pick Up Inc., a local environmental organization.

Judith Robinson, the Democratic chairperson of the 32nd ward, posted on the Facebook page for Susquehanna Clean Up/Pick Up Inc., to voice her concern about uncovered piles of dirt near Amos Recreation Center on 16th Street near Montgomery Avenue, right next to the construction site.

“Little particles are blowing in our air, we are breathing as we sit and play,” Robinson, who is also the group’s director, wrote.

“Temple University cares about the impact construction projects may have on nearby residents and does its best to respond to any concerns raised by community members who live near construction sites,” wrote Dozie Ibeh, associate vice president of the university’s Project Delivery Group, in a statement.

Robinson said her organization has for years dealt with the impact of uncovered dirt piles that are left in the community from construction sites.

“That air, every day with wind, is moving around our community,” Robinson said. “We have children with asthma and many senior citizens with respiratory conditions that are being challenged.”

“There are some major problems going on where our community is disrespected, as far as environmental justice is concerned,” Robinson added.

Ibeh said in the statement that Temple follows the guidelines of the Philadelphia Water Department for stormwater management and erosion and sediment control, and additionally attempts to keep mounds of dirt to a minimum so they are less susceptible to being blown by the wind.

“We also install fence screening to help keep adjacent areas as clean as possible,” Ibeh wrote in the statement. “In certain projects, water cannons help minimize dust during excavation or demolition.”

This method was used to reduce dust in the air during the demolition of Barton Hall in Fall 2015.

Part of the fencing surrounding the construction site, where the large piles of dirt are located, either has no cloth screening or the cloth screening is falling off the fence.

Robinson said Tom McCreesh, the university’s director of Regulatory Compliance and Special Projects, told her he would address the uncovered dirt piles at the construction site.

McCreesh could not be reached for comment.

Robinson said she held a community meeting about the SHWC construction, but turnout was low.

“Right now, people are focused on issues that are ‘sexier,’” Robinson said. “Dirt getting in your lungs is not one of those cute issues.”

“We, as a community, could have taken more time to really deal with some of these issues that we can affect,” Robinson added. “We couldn’t have stopped the building from being built because it’s [Temple’s] right, but we could have affected how it was being built and how our community would be affected.”

Kelly Brennan can be reached at kelly.brennan@temple.edu or on Twitter @_kellybrennan.

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