Dust relief coming soon on gravel roads

Derek Montague
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Cartwright town council frustrated while waiting for calcium chloride

According to Transportation Minister Nick McGrath, dust control measures will soon be implemented on gravel roads across the province.

Residents of Cartwright have been dealing with dusty gravel roads for two straight summers. Council members and residents have been waiting since June for the renewed calcium chloride program to start. The community is worried the dust can have negative effects on health and tourism.

In an interview with The Labradorian on Tuesday, July 15, McGrath said he’s expecting the renewed calcium chloride program to begin in less than a week.

In total, 192 kilometres will be treated with calcium chloride to help control dust levels. In Labrador, gravel roads in Cartwright, St. Lewis and Mary’s Harbour will receive this service. McGrath is hoping all the roads will be fully treated by Aug. 18.

This will be the first summer since 2012 where calcium chloride is used. The program was cut from the 2013 budget, and was returned suddenly in June 2014 after an outcry from affected communities.

For the community of Cartwright, the calcium chloride cannot come soon enough. In May, members of the town council and concerned residents took to the media to discuss the dust issue on their roads.

Some people claimed that the dust was a health hazard, especially for those who have lung and breathing problems. But, more than a month after the government stated it would use calcium chloride on the roads again, the town is still waiting.

“Everybody is very frustrated, not only that it’s taking so long, but that it was taken away in the first place, obviously, and that we had to lobby so hard to get it back,” said Coun. Kristin Pardy.

“It’s just such a difficult situation, living here in the summer with the dust. Last year was the first year we didn’t receive (the calcium chloride) since the highway’s been put through, and it was awful. Everybody endured the summer, but it was awful and people were very frustrated.”

Pardy notes that, as soon as all the snow melts in May, the dust problems start. For two months, residents have had to find their own methods of dealing with the hazard.

“I know of one resident in particular, he’s an older gentleman, and he doesn’t own a vehicle; he rides his bike everywhere,” said Pardy.

“The last few weeks, every time I’ve passed him, I’ve seen him with one of those medical masks on to try and filter out some dust.”

Aside from the health concerns, the town council is worried with the impression clouds of dust will leave on those visiting the community during summer.

Cartwright is hoping to be a popular tourist destination. The council doesn’t want their community to be known for cough-inducing dust.

“We are really hoping to grow our tourism industry here in Cartwright. With the Mealy Mountain Park coming, within the next summer or two, we’re really hoping to have a lot of tourists coming to our town,” said Pardy.

“They’re all going to be on the roads and it’s going to be dusty. We really want to make a good impression for them because we want these (tourists) to keep coming back.”

McGrath said he understands why people were frustrated with the wait for calcium chloride. But the Department of Transportation and Works had to follow protocol when tendering the contract, which was eventually awarded to a Quebec contractor for $741,000.

“Once the decision was made to reinstate it, by legislation it then had to go out to tender because of the size and cost of the project,” said McGrath.

“Once we receive the bids and we look at the successful bidder, there’s a series of checklist items that we have to go through with any tender. The department is actually completing that work now as we speak.”

The minister said he’d like the process to be quicker, but it’s important to go through the due diligence to ensure the contract is awarded to a competent bidder.

“You always wish it was quicker. We’d like to be able to pick up the phone and say, ‘can I get this done’ and, by the end of the day hope to have it done,” said McGrath. “But, unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way and there are precautions that have to be put in place.”

Even when the province uses calcium chloride on the two kilometres of Cartwright’s main road, there’re still the smaller side roads in the community that require dust control measures. These areas are the responsibility of the municipality. Pardy said the council is prepared to pay the contractor for that service, once the calcium chloride truck arrives.

“We can’t afford to bring the truck in ourselves, but we’ve approved the money to use the truck, or hire the truck, when it gets here, to do all of the side roads for us.”

derek.montague@thelabradorian.ca

Organizations: Department of Transportation and Works

Geographic location: Cartwright, Labrador, Mealy Mountain Park Quebec

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