EPA records indicate Madison ranks as the 24th worst city for short-term particulate pollution in the air. So it's important to understand where this dust comes from.
The University Crossing construction site
On Thursday, May 24, the sky was clear, but winds gusted to 50 mph in the late afternoon.
Wunderground records for Middleton indicated maximum winds of 33 mph with maximum gusts of 50 mph. When I photographed the University Crossing site in late afternoon, winds were about 43 mph.
The workers at these sites are most at risk. Numerous photos of construction workers showed that none were wearing respirators. Tens of thousands of sensitive people--children, the elderly, and people with respiratory illness--are at risk from heavy dust.
The view from Observatory Hill showed visibility was limited to about 10 miles. Although there were no clouds, the sky was slightly brown, instead of blue.
Every day since 5/18/12 has been windy, with the exception of 5/22.
The factors responsible for our poor air quality
- Fine loess deposits left over from glaciation. There are large deposits of fine sand on the University Crossing site, and along University Ave.
- Agriculture--plowing and bare fields--upwind of Madison.
- Construction sites in town with inadequate dust controls.
- Much bare or disturbed land in and around Madison, including industrial yards and quarries.
- Much pavement, including busy highways, where dirt is pulverized and kicked into the air by traffic. Construction sites contribute by tracking mud onto highways.
- Wisconsin is not one of the windiest states.
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Photos of Krupp Construction at University Crossing, construction on University Ave, and Miron Construction on campus, 5/24/12.
Dust at Findorff Construction site on 5/24/12.Dust from Weitz/HyVee demolition at Westgate Mall on 5/19/12.
Dust from concrete work at a residence, 2012.Dust from mortar mixing at a Tri-North Builders construction site, 2011.
Dust from a Findorff Construction site during June, 2011.
Dust from a MG&E lot downtown, 2011.