TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Last week many Green Valley residents say they noticed something they see from time to time but not often - dust.
“You couldn’t see anything. You couldn’t see mountains. You couldn’t see trees. My husband and I thought it was a storm coming in,” Janelle Ellis said.
The dust was coming from the Freeport-McMoRan Sierrita mine. Mine officials say heavy rains diluted dust-suppressant material on the tailings impoundment.
People living in Green Valley say that the dust in many places was thick and to some it even looked like ash after a bad fire.
“When my husband went outside all the furniture, the hot tub cover and everything was covered in this ash,” Ellis said.
Now, after getting roughly 325 complaint calls, Freeport-McMoRan is working to clean up the dust.
The mining and copper company sent Tucson News Now a statement that says in part, “Freeport-McMoRan is offering to arrange cleanup assistance through a third-party service or reimbursement for any cleanup services already received. Since the first dust event occurred, we have returned more than 95% of the approximately 325 calls received from residents seeking information or assistance. We apologize to our neighbors and encourage anyone affected by the dust to contact us through our 24-hour community information line at 520-393-4426 or 866-717-7030. If leaving a message, we will need an address and contact information.”
Meanwhile Pima Department of Environmental Quality is looking into complaints about the dust. They got over 40 calls about the dust but they say the dust poses no health threat. PDEQ sent inspectors out to the mine to assess what Freeport-McMoRan has been doing to keep the dust from crossing property boundaries. That information is still being looked at but once the review is complete the department will determine whether or not the mine was being compliant.
While they wait to hear the results from the PDEQ inspectors, Green Valley residents say they’re just happy the dust is gone because it was worse than the usual dust many of them say they’ve experienced.
“We’ve never had a problem with it,"Ellis said. “We’ve had friends and stuff that live closer to the mines and you know it’s, there’s certain times it is a problem when they’re mining but nothing like this year. This has to be the worst for everyone.”