Colwood ‘dust storm’ forces construction site shutdown

Rock grinding at a Latoria Road construction site in Colwood has been shut down by the developer due to a “dust storm” caused at nearby residences.

The move comes four months after the same contractor, Tri-X Excavating Ltd. of Victoria, sent rocks flying through the roofs of Pondside Terrace homes.

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This time, rock-grinding machinery operated by a worker for Tri-X was halted until the dust problem can be rectified, likely next week.

John Newton, president of Homewood Constructors Ltd., said Wednesday that he acted as soon as he saw a photograph taken by homeowner Brian Belcher, who lives on nearby Bezanton Way, showing houses enshrouded in dust from the grinding.

“It looks like they’re living in a cloud,” Newton said.

The operator “should have known better” when he saw the dust blowing up, he said.

“It is shut down and it won’t start again until they get things completely resolved.”

It was obvious that the water supply that is part of the grinding process was not getting through, made worse by the drought conditions. “That’s what made me shut it down.”

Newton said he expects once rain forecast for this weekend falls, the dust will settle down. “I’ve told Tri-X that if they start up again and there’s any dust, they’re to shut it down.”

Belcher thanked Colwood planning director Iain Bourhill for his immediate action in contacting Newton and ensuring the cessation until the problem is under control.

He likened the result of the grinding to a dust storm, forest fire haze or fog.

Belcher has criticized the scale of the rock removal, the risk of structural damage due to intense shaking and the lack of municipal control over it for the past several months, comparing it to levelling a small mountain.

WorkSafe B.C. suspended a blaster’s permit at the site after a rain of rock on April 13 sent a 17-pound chunk smashing through the roof and bedroom ceiling of Darryl and Jorgia Olsen, breaking their bed frame. The blaster was suspended until May 25 and then required to rewrite the blasting exam.

In mid-May, a blast shook Belcher’s house such that pictures and books fell off shelves.

In September, Colwood’s director of engineering will present a review of blasting bylaws related to safety, public acceptance, regulation, cost and liability to council, said city spokeswoman Sandra Russell.

Newton said about 4,500 cubic metres of rock — about 500 dump trucks full — has been blasted and removed from the 5.66-hectare site slated for a subdivision.

The blasting is “pretty much finished” but a large rock wall is yet to be built along Latoria Road and the east side of the property, he said.

“That’s what we need the rock crushed for. We need to fill in behind that rock wall.”

He anticipates only “the odd hump that has to be blasted out” when trenches are being built “and they probably won’t even hear it.”

Construction of 27 homes, the first phase of the project, will then get underway. The Homewood development will include 59 homes, but the second phase will not begin for at least two years, Newton said.

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