An industrial hygiene expert said Tuesday that the dust emanating from a concrete-crushing operation in Lakeshore Estates near Slidell is toxic and could cause health problems for residents there. Richard Haaker, who testified at a preliminary injunction hearing in Civil District Court in New Orleans, said the project is generating a lot of airborne dust that is getting into people's houses and into their bodies as well. As a result, the carcinogens in the dust could cause diseases of the respiratory tract, lung cancer, emphysema and tuberculosis, he said.
Haaker was just one of the witnesses who testified at the hearing before Judge Christopher Bruno, who must determine whether the operation is a health and safety hazard and should be shut down. An injunction would stop the work to crush the remains of the old Interstate 10 twin spans over Lake Pontchartrain at a site not far from $1 million homes along Lake Pontchartrain.
The hearing began Tuesday after 9 a.m. and included testimony from several witnesses called by Mike Stag and Stuart Smith, the attorneys for residents Mike Appleton and Shirley Wagner, who live on Sunset Boulevard in Lakeshore Estates. The hearing will continue Wednesday morning.
Appleton and Wagner sued to stop the operation in January, specifically naming Tammany Holding Corp. and various contractors working on the project in their petition. Bob Torres owns Tammany Holding Corp., which developed Lakeshore Estates and allowed the state to conduct the concrete-crushing operation adjacent to residential property.
In addition to Haaker's testimony about the dust concerns, Arno Bommer discussed the problems related to the noise levels at the site. Bommer, an acoustical consultant, said he measured decibel levels that exceeded those allowed by the St. Tammany Parish Code of Ordinances on a number of occasions during the past six months, as well as some that surpassed the much higher maximum allowed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
He said the noise levels are high enough to interfere with people's quality of life and that long-term exposure could lead to hearing loss.
The judge also heard from Appleton, who explained how the operation -- particularly the associated dust and noise -- has affected his and his family's lives. Appleton's house backs up to a canal in the subdivision, and the concrete-crushing operation is directly across that canal.
He also said the information that Tammany Holding provided when he bought his house in 2003 described the land where the concrete crushing is taking place as future residential lots, not an industrial site. Tammany Holding allowed the state to use the site adjacent to Lake Pontchartrain during construction of the new twin spans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and then, later, to crush the old bridges for use along Lake Borgne as shoreline protection.
Appleton also noted that the operation has caused his property values to decrease by roughly 40 percent, as he has received notice from the St. Tammany Parish assessor's office that he will pay that much less in property taxes for 2011 as a result of the concrete work.
The defense did not call any witnesses Tuesday, though attorneys for Tammany Holding and the Lakeshore Estates Homeowners Association did cross-examine the experts and Appleton. Attorneys for two of the primary companies named in the suit, Bertucci Contracting LLC and NASDI LLC, were not in court Tuesday.