Pinal County to Gov. Brewer: Help solve dust problem
County chair suggests summit with stakeholders
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A storm in Pinal County a week and a half ago is still kicking up dust, and a local leader has a unique proposition to solve the problem once and for all.
That dust storm at Picacho Peak shows what poor air quality can lead to in the county. Two dozen cars, trucks and big rigs piled up on Interstate 10 in little to no visibility. One person was killed.
The problem is clear: the air in Pinal County is not, as it continues to pose traffic safety and health risks to people there.
Reporter Kevin Keen asked county board chair Pete Rios: “Is air quality something on your and the board's mind? “ “Every day,” he replied. “Every day, especially after what's happened recently in Picacho. Everyone in Arizona was aware of the dust storm there. But you have to remember: this isn't the first time. Accidents on I-10 and our highways as the result of dust storms--we can track them back at least 50 years.”
So, 9 On Your Side asked: What’s behind these sandy storms?
“We’ve got fugitive emissions that are coming from open areas, roadways, vehicle activity, construction, dust on highways and, last but not least, wind blows,” said Donald Gabrielson, the county’s air quality director, speaking about primarily findings on the matter.
That mixture causes another problem: no single group is responsible so no one's stepped up to fix it.
“When I talk to people in the legislature, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and other stakeholders,” Rios said, “nobody wants to own up to any part of the problem.”
Rios says the county is trying to do its part, working to pave some of the thousand miles of dirt roads that kick up dust.
“For me to sit here and say, 'Hey, there's absolutely nothing we can do. It's the desert and you have to live with it.’ No, I'm not saying that,” Rios said. “But, keep in the back of your mind, viewing audience, that we are in the desert and we can only do so much.”
Rios tells 9 On Your Side what's needed is a summit where stakeholders like county agencies, farmers and ranchers and state agencies come together to hammer out a comprehensive solution. He suggested Governor Jan Brewer organizes it.
Keen asked, “Does the governor know that you would like to see such a conference called?” “I'll call her right now and tell her,” Rios replied. “I get along pretty good with the governor.” “Would you like to?” Keen replied. “Well, she wouldn't be there right now.”
Rios says he'll place that call soon, hoping for receptive ears and a lasting solution.
Adding pressure to the situation in Pinal County is the air in certain areas does not meet federal quality standards. The Environmental Protection Agency is asking the state to develop an action plan to improve air quality there.