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Elkhart mayor orders more watering to reduce dust at Prairie Street demolition site

Fourteen buildings on Prairie Street are being torn down to make way for a planned overpass over a railroad line.

Posted on June 4, 2014 at 6:58 p.m.

ELKHART — Mayor Dick Moore has called on the firm tearing down several homes on Prairie Street to increase watering to prevent wafting dust caused by the demolition.

He was approached Wednesday, June 4, by Jason Moreno, an organizer at LaCasa Inc., who relayed concerns of some neighbors worried about dust. "They were using the hose, but you could tell it wasn’t adequate to keep dust particles from the air," Moreno said.

R&R Excavating of Mishawaka is handling demolition of 14 structures along Prairie Street north of Main Street to make way for the planned overpass over the nearby Norfolk Southern Railroad line. The work, which started last week, has caused wafting dust in the residential neighborhood at times, which led R&R to request use of a city fire hydrant on Monday.

Now Moore wants R&R to use even more water, and he said the city won’t charge the company for the amount used. “I don’t blame (neighbors) for their concern at all,” he said.

An Elkhart County Health Department expert on Tuesday warned of the potential of lead in the wafting dust from paint used in the old structures, a concern for Moreno as well. Moore noted that neither federal nor state environmental laws set guidelines for demolition based on the possibility of lead dust, “but we want to keep the dust down.”

The city has been involved in many demolition projects in recent years of decrepit homes and abandoned industrial buildings. Water has typically been used to keep dust down and Moore couldn’t recall other complaints about wafting particles.

The Prairie Street demolition is to last until around mid-June.

Follow reporter Tim Vandenack on Twitter at @timvandenack or visit him on Facebook.

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