MESA, AZ — ABC15 has taken dozens of complaints over the past two months from drivers whose cars were damaged on the US 60 in the East Valley between Greenfield and Gilbert Road. The damage resulted from a weekend ADOT construction project in November that tore up the existing pavement.
We've since learned 142 drivers have filed claims for damages, mainly dents and cracked windshields. The state has paid out $85,000 thus far for repairs, and is looking to recoup that money from the contractor McNeil Brothers Inc.
A new problem has now come to light. Residents living near the 60 reported thick black dust covering everything in the area from trees to sidewalks.
"If you look across the driveway you could see like crystals glimmering on the driveway, and when you hit it with water the sediment would show itself," said JoAnne Packus.
Packus had just moved into her Mesa home and said she barely noticed the freeway until the project got underway and now cars driving on the broken surface create quite a bit of noise. But her main concern is the air quality.
"It's been months now and that same sediment is settling, still in our furniture and on our driveways. It's on my feet when I walk in the house, I still notice it on my feet," she says.
Packus had planned for her backyard to be a "zen-like" oasis, but now she finds herself hosing things off constantly, an uphill battle as the thick, oily black dust keeps coming back.
"You can see when I hit it with the water how heavy the sediment is. It's like you're panning for gold when you see all of the sediment," she said.
Packus has contacted ADOT and state air quality officials, only to be told there was nothing they could do for her.
"If you read the letter from her, [it] pretty much says, 'too bad, so sad, file a complaint if you have physical damage.' But my damage is in my lungs, it's not going to be visible unless I get cancer, and I hope it doesn't get to that," she said.
Packus works in health care and has done research on what that type of dust can do to people's lungs. She's concerned not just for herself, but also for her dog, "baby" who she says hasn't been feeling well.
"I know she's breathing a lot of that because that's all she does when she goes outside is sniff."
She says if nothing is done to take care of the issue she'll consider filing a class action lawsuit against the state and contractors McNeil Brothers Inc.
"I want good clean air," she said. "They've got to come up with a plan of how they're going to take care of this or people are going to get sick and they're going to die. That's my concern."
"We shouldn't have to die just because we live next to the 60 and they chose to do this project when they didn't have proper funding for it," Packus said.