Monday night I spoke about the quarry expansion at the Caledonia Village Board meeting as a citizen and not as a journalist.

This was important to me because I live a few blocks away from the quarry. During Payne and Dolan’s project presentation at the Caledonia Village Hall on Monday, officials did not mention the issues around particulate matter (fancy word for dust) and its effect on human health. And because I have done research on this issue for the stories about We Energies, I felt I needed to pipe up.

To be clear, I’m not for or against the expansion. I just want these questions answered and issues addressed because they could impact the health of the surrounding neighborhood. Officials continuously cited how they met the DNR’s air quality standards for fugitive dust and were considered “a low risk.” And that may be true. But the fact remains that the Department of Natural Resources does absolutely no air quality monitoring for particulate matter itself in Racine County.

There is one air quality monitoring station at the Payne and Dolan that the DNR operates, but it measures ozone. And that’s what I take issue with because the American Lung Association, National Institute of Health, World Health Organization and the EPA itself have air quality standards for PM10 and PM2.5. 

Here’s why measuring PM is important… When you crush rock, you are going to have some level of PM10 and PM2.5. You can’t see it because those microns are so small that it is often in aerosol form. How much it impacts you largely depends on a variety of things, including wind speed, temperature and humidity. Particulates under PM10 (10 microns or less) are respirable. They fall into two categories: Fine (10microns to 2.5 microns) ultra fine (2.5 microns or less). According to the medical community, there is no acceptable limit of exposure to PM10 or PM2.5 that does not cause human health problems. 

According to the NIH:

“High concentrations of particulate matter, especially the fine particles of particulate matter, have been found to present a serious threat to human health if they accumulate in the respiratory system. The way particulate matter can affect your health depends on the size of the particles and the level of their concentration in the air. The fine particles of particulate matter can be inhaled deeply into the lungs, where they remain embedded for long periods of time, or can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Prolonged exposure to fine particulate matter can cause increased respiratory disease, decreased lung function, chronic bronchitis, and even premature death due to respiratory problems.”

The dust you’ll see on your cars/windows is larger than PM10 and is considered a nuisance, not a health issue. So companies largely focus their narrative around that and not PM10/PM2.5.

So I get the need for the expansion. Much of that stone will be needed for Foxconn, new housing starts and regional growth. We need those jobs. But I also want my neighbors’ health to matter just as much. This shouldn’t be an either/or situation. The discussion has to include air monitoring for PM10/2.5, especially since there are two schools — St. Rita and North Park Elementary — within a mile of the proposed expansion site.

Also, just a heads up, we will have a news story about the quarry expansion on Tuesday. But I won’t be writing it because this just hits a little too close to home… literally.

Love what we do?

In addition to our education features, we’ll be kicking off a series of stories highlighting how parents, students, and educators are adapting to the impact of COVID-19 on education. If this is important to you, please consider donating to our education reporting fund. https://business.facebook.com/donate/1846323118855149/3262802717172659/

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.