This is one of several photos taken by Elizabeth Mitchell outside the arena site showing dust on the road. She's also concerned about air quality, and has a child who attends daycare nearby.
This is one of several photos taken by Elizabeth Mitchell outside the arena site showing dust on the road. She's also concerned about air quality, and has a child who attends daycare nearby.

Queen Anne Greenways leader Mark Ostrow was stopped on his bike on the new First Avenue North protected bike lane Tuesday night when he tweeted a gif he made of what looked like snow coming down on Mercer.

“It was kind of weird, because I’m kind of used to the street looking that way in the winter, when they salt and sand the roads,” he said.

Ostrow first became concerned about the dust he’d noticed in the air earlier in the month, and that night he made the connection that what he was seeing in the air had to be coming from the Seattle Center arena, which is currently being excavated as part of a major rebuild expected to cost up to $930 million.

“It wasn’t at the site, it wasn’t even across from it,” Ostrow said, “it was down the street, and still, with a little breeze, you could see it swirling around like a snow flurry.”

Developer Oak View Group’s general contractor M.A. Mortenson Co. is carrying out a 600,000-cubic-yard excavation at the Seattle Center arena, which will nearly double its size, from 450,000 square feet to 850,000 square feet.

“I think the creation of dirt and dust in a project of this size is to be expected,” said Katie Townsend, OVG vice president of corporate communications. “What we’re trying to do is mitigate it as much as possible.”

Partial excavation took place when the arena’s iconic 44-million-pound roof was being secured with steel supports, and ramped up in late September.

Townsend said a stretch of dry weather in Seattle at the time Ostrow witnessed the flurry of dust could have played a factor. Wetter weather tends to keep the dust down, she said, adding the roads are cleaned with water regularly to keep it from getting into the air.

Ostrow said he sees street cleaners running at night, but he doesn’t think they’re working. He is not generally sensitive to changes in air quality, he said.

“It really was kind of hard to breathe,” Ostrow said.

Townsend said any potentially hazardous materials at the construction site were mitigated before the excavation started.

“A complete environmental survey was conducted early in the project and any materials identified as a potential hazard were remediated before the start of demolition,” according to a statement from OVG. “We will continue to work with the local community to mitigate the impact of dirt and dust and thank them for their patience and support of this great project.”

Ostrow did file a complaint with the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency out of concern for the impacts the dust could be having on people in the neighborhood, including a daycare across the street from the arena site.

Kim Wells, manager of inspections at Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, confirmed an inspector had been assigned to review Ostrow’s complaint and determine the level of response.

Elizabeth Mitchell has a child who attends Mighty Kidz daycare on the west side of First Avenue North, next to the arena. She said she is awaiting a decision by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency whether to approve her application for air-monitoring equipment, so she can conduct her own testing.

Townsend tells Queen Anne News the hauling of dirt is expected to continue into the first quarter of 2020, and wheel washes on trucks and watering down of the loads occur before leaving the site. Mitchell said she’s since heard from the daycare that OVG representatives had contacted them about its process.

Queen Anne News will keep updating as more information becomes available.