Interstate 10 near Arizona/New Mexico state line reopens after third closure

Posted at 2:34 PM, Feb 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-28 21:58:09-05

Extremely windy conditions and blowing dust for the third straight day shut down Interstate 10 in Arizona and New Mexico, stalling commerce and sending drivers on a long detour through a much smaller road.

In some parts, it's nature that has sent dust into the air, resulting in little to zero visibility. But at the Arizona-New Mexico border, a farm that last year cost Arizona taxpayers at least $288,000 to chemically stabilize the soil is once again sending blowing dust into the air, according to the state's Department of Environmental Quality.

RELATED: ADEQ turns to 'Gorilla Snot' to solve I-10 blowing dust problem

The owner of David's Agrigold Farms removed stabilizer from 50 acres late last week with plans to plant on it this week, the department said. But the landowner left the land unattended over the weekend, when high winds were forecast, according to the department.

Investigators were on scene this week to ensure the owner, David Turner, takes measures to reduce the dust, the department said.

"This is certainly going to add a new layer of violations and need for additional enforcement, since we are seeing the issue happen again and believe it to be an avoidable situation on top of that," air quality division director Timothy S. Franquist said.

Turner has two water trucks spraying the land, but that it hasn't helped enough, Franquist said. The department is considering stepping in again either with more water trucks or potentially with chemical stabilizer.

Someone who answered the phone for a number listed for Turner said "no thanks" when reached by The Associated Press.

Last year, the department spent at least $288,000 on stabilizing 600 acres of soil with two products. The landowner was required to contribute $90,000.

Blowing dust caused several wrecks last spring before authorities shut down the highway because of the poor visibility

The issue returned on Sunday when blowing dust in the San Simon area resulted in a closure of the freeway. The same happened on Monday and Tuesday.

The National Weather Service in Tucson on Tuesday issued a blowing dust advisory from the Bowie to San Simon, saying it will affect the area through at least 5 p.m.

The Arizona Department of Transportation said the freeway reopened just before 4 p.m. Tuesday.