Unhealthy dust angers Rodney residents

June 26, 2017

Unhealthy dust angers Rodney residents

Foley Quarry Rd is one of many unsealed roads in Rodney. Photo: Madison Levy

Rodney politicians are demanding action over the district’s unsealed rural roads, which they say are a serious health risk.

A growing body of evidence is showing that dust flying off unsealed roads can lead to various lung diseases.

The World Health Organisation has found the main health risk is from the very smallest road dust particles of less than 10 micrometres.

Auckland Councillor Greg Sayers said particles from diesel vehicles, wood burning fires and road dust were a widespread air pollutant.

“Particle matter of up to 10 micrometres in diameter makes up a significant portion of road dust.”

A NZ Transport Agency research report released last month revealed that levels of very small road dust particles next to rural roads exceeded the normal level every one in three days.

“It is only relatively recently that the impact of dust has been taken seriously as a significant health hazard,” said Rodney Local Board member Allison Roe.

Mr Sayers said that more of the unsealed roads in Rodney should be sealed to prevent residents from being exposed to road dust health risk. “I would like to see the road sealing budget increased from $3.3 to $10 million a year.”

Auckland Transport’s group manager of assets and maintenance, Tony McCartney, said the average cost of sealing a road was $500,000 per km.

Mr Sayers said a method of sealing roads called “cap-sealing” was far more cost effective. “At $150,000 per km this is a cheaper method of road sealing than currently used by Auckland Transport.”

Ms Roe agreed with Mr Sayers about wanting a bigger road-sealing budget for Rodney.

“Rural Auckland deserves to be treated a lot better, given that those living on rural roads receive no water, sewerage and rubbish services and suffer the health consequences of dusty roads.”

Ms Roe explained that the Rodney community was very engaged and contacted her daily.

“With more people using rural roads more often and trucks barrelling along country roads creating dust clouds, road dust is a key complaint and most concerns are around the health effects.”

The NZ Transport Agency northern regional director, Ernst Zollner, said the transport agency understood concerns caused by dust for residents along rural unsealed roads and sealing or paving the most critical routes was an option.

Mr Zollner suggested a range of less expensive options than sealing to control road dust such as heavy vehicle restrictions, speed reduction and spraying water or dust supressants.

Ms Roe said that something in the approach of the transport agencies did not make sense to her.

“I think we need more flexible policies and pilot studies to prove that another way can work.”

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