Dry Conditions Create Micro Dust Bowl at High School Construction Site

Weather and drought have conspired together to create a particularly challenging environment for residents adjacent to the construction site of the new high school. The vast area of open ground is wreaking havoc as strong winds whip the talcum like soil into intense localized dust storms.   Residents on Pender Court and Early Drive have been bearing the brunt of these dust storms. One resident described the intensity of the dust saying,”I am sitting at the computer looking out my front window and I can just barely see the house across the street.”

Conditions this week have been particularly challenging. The National Weather Service has issued a Hazardous Weather Outlooks for the past three days because of low relative humidity and winds gusting to between 20 and 25 miles per hour. This combined with the extremely dry conditions we have experienced has created a dangerous fire threat. However, these conditions also exacerbate the dusty conditions at the new school site. With the majority of the site stripped to open ground these winds can pick up tremendous amounts of soil and carry them off the site in swirling clouds reaching high into the air.

Complaints from residents have been tempered by support for the school project. Residents voiced their concerns to Sharon Strickland president of the Battlefield Estates Civic Association and Ward Four Councilman, Dave Tollett. The concerns were taken to both the town and the school board.

Chairman of the Clarke County School Board Robina Bouffault responded to the issue stating:

I have communicated with our construction manager, and have the following news for you and the BECA folks:   the watering truck has been working full-time non-stop. Because of the extra-dry conditions right now, however, Shockey is now bringing in a SECOND water truck as well, to try and mitigate the dust problems (all of the construction crews are working in the dust as well, and are feeling the full effects of the dust up close). I have asked them to focus on the Pender Court/Early Drive areas as much as possible.

Gordon Williams, project superintendent for Shockey Construction, said that they are taking a positive stance to maintain dust control but that recent conditions have made the effort very challenging. ” We have been spraying water every day. A second water truck will be on site around 10:00 today.”

He went on to say that in a recent email he had received a resident understood the plight of the construction site but asked, “Can you control the dust a little better?”

The project superintendent’s response was, “My response to trying to control it a little better is to wet everything that the wind might take and that’s what I’m doing. I pledge to not only get the hall roads we’re using, not only get the areas that we’re digging out that are dry and try to get water into that, but at the same time go after the site itself, just to get a coat of something on top of the dust. ”

The site is sucking up a tremendous amount of water already. The current water truck is running throughout the day and uses approximately 500 gallons every 45 minutes. Shockey is adding a second truck today and may add a third. Competition for water trucks has become acute as large projects in the area are competing for a finite amount of water trucks that are in high demand as more and more construction sites attempt to control on and off site dust.

The local forecast has a 40% chance of rain this Sunday. As Gordon looked out over the site he said, ” I hope we’re in the 40% and not the 60% that doesn’t get any rain.”


  1. Fact Checker says:

    Wow! A near depression and now a dust bowl. What’s next? Obama contracts polio?

  2. The new school is no problem and I am aware that with construction comes dust/debris, however, if Shockey/school board would like to volunteer to clean my house then this would be a little more rewarding.

  3. Good God, people!! It’s been a DRY summer!! Deal with a little dust for a while!!!

    Sheesh! Next thing ya know, with all the water that they put down, mud will stick to the tires and get onto the hard road surfaces and people will complain about that then!!

  4. Allan McWilliams says:

    To the residents of Battlefield Estates complaing about dust,the people on Walnut St and Dorsey St put up with flooding of yards for years while your developement was under construction.

  5. In my opinion I am not complaining. Did you not read, “I know with construction there comes dust/debris”. I was merely making light of the subject. What else can be so wrong with that. I don’t mind there is a new school coming to my neighborhood and dust is what comes along with it. It will only increase my property value. It’s a win win situation.

  6. River Watcher says:

    That’s a lot of water.. One truck 20 thousand gallons a week!

    Where is the water coming from? The Shenandoah River?