Ever heard of ‘fugitive dust?’ It’s on the loose in this woman’s home

Jane Gunn said the problem began when developers started clear-cutting for a new subdivision
Jane Gunn said the problem began when developers started clear-cutting for a new subdivision.
Published: Feb. 22, 2023 at 9:46 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 22, 2023 at 11:03 AM EST
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DEKALB CO, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Jane Gunn’s 800-square-foot home in metro Atlanta’s Scottdale community in DeKalb County looks like an abandoned house from a movie, with a room full of furniture covered with dirt and dust.

Thick layers of reddish dirt coat everything in her office. The white blinds have an orange tint, and the ceiling fan is covered with reddish dirt.

“It’s everywhere,” Gunn said. “I’m breathing it. I don’t even know how this gets resolved.”

Gunn said the dust started accumulating when a developer began clear-cutting 13 acres to build a new subdivision on Valley Brook Road. She said the dust got so bad she started cleaning daily, but more than a year later, she’s given up.

“I would sit here (at her desk) and dirt would rain down on me,” she said.

Gunn’s situation is extreme, but she didn’t know who to call. She did not contact the developer about the contamination, nor could she prove that the construction next door caused the problem.

Gunn has two large dogs, but an air contamination specialist she hired doesn’t believe the dogs are the source.

“I think it happened because the doors are constantly being opened and closed in the back of the house,” said JD Ortega of No Mold Atlanta.

Gunn’s longtime HVAC technician agreed. He pulled a two-month-old air filter clogged with thick red dirt.

“That fine of a dust is not normal for a house to produce by itself,” said Robert Seawright of Bowman’s Heating and Air. “See how reddish it is? That’s from outside.”

Gunn isn’t alone in the fight against dust. Just down the street, Linda Nauright told Atlanta News First she has also noticed the dust. The professor and retired nursing administrator owns two houses next to the construction site.

“It blows in, it’s dusty,” Nauright said.

She explained the developers have been good neighbors, but the dust has been a problem.

“Have they watered it down like they should,” Atlanta News First Consumer Investigator Better Call Harry asked.

“No, I’ve seen them water it down one time,” Nauright said.

Georgia has regulations for what it calls “Fugitive Dust.”

  • 1. All persons responsible for any operation, process, handling, transportation or storage facility which may result in fugitive dust shall take all reasonable precautions to prevent such dust from becoming airborne. Some reasonable precautions which could be taken to prevent dust from becoming airborne include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • (i) Use, where possible, of water or chemicals for control of dust in the demolition of existing buildings or structures, construction operations, the grading of roads or the clearing of land;
  • (ii) Application of asphalt, water, or suitable chemicals on dirt roads, materials, stockpiles, and other surfaces which can give rise to airborne dusts;
  • (iii) Installation and use of hoods, fans, and fabric filters to enclose and vent the handling of dusty materials. Adequate containment methods can be employed during sandblasting or other similar operations;
  • (iv) Covering, at all times when in motion, open bodied trucks, transporting materials likely to give rise to airborne dusts;
  • (v) The prompt removal of earth or other material from paved streets onto which earth or other material has been deposited.
  • 2. The percent opacity from any fugitive dust source listed in paragraph (2)(n)1. above shall not equal or exceed 20 percent.

When Atlanta News First Investigates contacted the developer, the company inspected Gunn’s home and offered $5,000 for remediation. Although there is no proof that the dirt contamination came directly from the development, Gunn said she is happy with the offer.

If there’s something you would like Atlanta News First’s Consumer Investigator Better Call Harry to look into, fill out this submission form.