Harrison County

City responds to complaints over dust, dust control in East Biloxi

Pedestrian and vehiclular traffic make their way down Oak Street as construction continues on infrastructure in East Biloxi on Wednesday, October 21, 2015. A year later many of the streets are still dirt and residents report developing health issues. A new report found no permit violations.
Pedestrian and vehiclular traffic make their way down Oak Street as construction continues on infrastructure in East Biloxi on Wednesday, October 21, 2015. A year later many of the streets are still dirt and residents report developing health issues. A new report found no permit violations. amccoy@sunherald.com

Heavy rain in East Biloxi this week is causing more problems for residents who are driving its mostly dirt streets and the contractor doing miles of infrastructure work.

The North Contract work has streets torn up from Biloxi Bay west to beyond Interstate 110. The city said Wednesday crews from Oscar Renda Contracting will be working again this weekend to pour curbs so streets can be paved next week. Among the streets that will be paved are Holley and Bowen, north of Division; Roy, Wink and Garic between Holley and Bowen; and old Bayview.

Biloxi also released a report by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of Pollution Control, which responded to a number of complaints about dust in the construction zone. The report on the Oct. 12 site inspection found no permit violations.

Residents, who said they are developing health problems since the infrastructure work began, crowded into the Dec. 6 Biloxi Council meeting asking for the city’s help. They requested tests to determine if the chemical being used to keep the dust down on their streets is safe.

Councilman Felix Gines demands answers and a plan for $365 million Hurricane Katrina infrastructure project that he says have torn up and torn apart East Biloxi.

The MDEQ report said Oscar Renda kept a weekly Material Safety Data Sheet for a dust-control agent that has been used, and said the contractor could not use the material on all the dirt roads because of the high cost.

The contractors primarily use water for dust control, said Robbie Wilbur, MDEQ communications director. The inspection report indicates they used a chemical dust suppressant on two occasions.

“We reviewed the Safety Data Sheet on site and didn’t seen any obvious concerns,” he said. “We would not approve any kind of chemical suppressant that could create a human health or environmental issue.”

The original timeline for the infrastructure project had completion in August 2017. But 35 change orders since work began in 2014 added 320 days to the contract, extending completion to June 2018.

The cost of the North Contract also has grown, from $118 million to $122 million.

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