Crews Vow to Contain Casey Dust; Some Residents Skeptical

State officials say there’s no asbestos in the soon-to-be-demolished Casey Overpass. But that didn’t stop some residents from prophesying doom.

One man, convinced that crystalline silica won’t be contained by methods outlined by the project team, thundered, “How dare you come in to Jamaica Plain and try to poison our children!”

The beams of the aging flyover, whose paint may contain lead, will be cut down in pieces and trucked away, said Engineer Chris Evasius at a Monday informational meeting with the public at English High School. As for removal of the concrete, there won’t be any blasting, he said.

Alex Kasprak of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation said the state had tested for asbestos in 10 locations, including the piers and abutments. The samples were analyzed by two different labs, he said, and came up showing no asbestos in the concrete.

Two speakers at Monday’s meeting weren’t convinced that there’s no danger to residents.

A man identified as H.M. Owens by the moderator but who refused to give his name to Jamaica Plain News claims there’s no need to tear down the bridge, that it can simply be repaired. He cited a 2008 study as proof. Project Manager Steve McLaughlin refuted that claim at a previous meeting, saying “we respectfully and wholeheartedly disagree that the bridge is in good condition.”

The man said demolition would release crystalline silica that could enter residents’ lungs. He touted a Web site he has apparently set up, called jpatthecrossroads.org, which contains lengthy versions of his case.

Another resident, architect John Spears, said the dust could go much further into the neighborhood than planners expect. He argued for placing monitoring stations on homes near the project.

“This dust can kill you,” Spears said. “This is basically a horizontal World Trade Center. It’s really got to be professionally done.”

At January’s Casey Arborway meeting, Kasprak outlined dust control measures, saying they’re modeled on those used during the Big Dig and at all subsequent MassDOT projects.

“Some examples for minimizing dust emissions include placing screens around the work zone, applying water and calcium chloride around the work zone, ensuring all piles of debris are covered and making sure trucks are not tracking dirt or other materials out of the project site,” Kasprak said, according to a MassDOT transcript. “If trucks bring material outside of the project site and it ends up on the street it is the contractor’s responsibility to clean it up.”

See all our Casey Overpass/Casey Arborway coverage here.