Menlo Park: Caltrain to remove ballast rock piles by October

Belle Haven residents are concerned about health hazards from rock dust

When public agencies embark upon projects, delays are -- unfortunately -- expected. Caltrain, however, has turned that expectation on its head by deciding that rather than needing two years to move piles of ballast rock off Chilco Street in Menlo Park, it can now accomplish that task within six months.

The ballast rock, used to support railroad tracks, has been stored along Chilco Street since 2008. Belle Haven residents who live nearby have expressed concerns about health hazards from dust released into the air from the rock piles.

Caltrain said in an email to the city on April 3 that it will be finished transferring the rock piles to an industrial site in Redwood City by Oct. 1.

"While Caltrain is still working to develop funding solutions to cover these immediate expenses, we understand the community's urgent desire to remove the material from the site and we want to assure you that we are fully committed to responding in the most expeditious way," spokesman Seamus Murphy wrote.

The Almanac's conjecture that the partnership between Facebook and Menlo Gateway developer David Bohannon to upgrade Chilco Street is responsible for cutting the ballast rock moving timeframe by 75 percent was substantiated by sources, but no one was ready to comment for attribution by the newspaper's deadline.

Caltrain sent out an announcement on Tuesday, April 7, with a bit more information -- the removal will cost $295,000, with Facebook footing part of the bill.

"Our contribution will enable Caltrain to permanently remove the unsightly rock, which has been stored there for a number of years," a Facebook spokesperson said, attributing the assistance to the social media company's "ongoing commitment" to the community.

Caltrain held a meeting on March 23 with several dozen Belle Haven residents who live near the rock piles, and said it would provide possible solutions by April 3.

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2 people like this
Posted by whatveer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 7, 2015 at 9:40 am

Six months to move a few piles of rocks is still an absurdly long time. A team of dump trucks and bulldozers should be able to do the job in a couple weeks.

4 people like this
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 7, 2015 at 2:44 pm

This kills me.

"Belle Haven residents who live nearby have expressed concerns about health hazards from dust released into the air from the rock piles."

However, we still mow and of course, blow. Blow LOTS of carcenogenic dirt into the lowest of the low atmosphere (say around 100 feet off the ground) only to have it fall back into our lungs, where it is properly inhaled and absorbed. Where else did you think that dust went ???

Oh, of course, moving the rockpile to someone elses back yard will help.

3 people like this
Posted by Louise68
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 7, 2015 at 2:55 pm

SIX MONTHS -- to get to a job that will be done in ONE DAY? It is quite obvious how little the residents of Belle haven matter to Caltrain management.

Thanks for publicizing this.

5 people like this
Posted by Steve Taffee
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 7, 2015 at 3:13 pm

Happy to read that this is being addressed, but disappointed in the timeframe. This would happen faster, no doubt, if the hazard was in a wealthier part of town. There are lot of compelling evidence in the area of environmental justice to back up this claim.

4 people like this
Posted by Belle Haven Restaurant
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 7, 2015 at 10:03 pm

Moving the rock pile to an industrial area is not moving it to 'someone else's backyard'. It is now behind a school on a residential block. Whenever Caltrain move the rocks around it raises dust which sometimes gives children asthma attacks. This should not happen if it is kept away from where people live.

2 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Apr 8, 2015 at 8:38 am

So apparently Redwood City is OK with this -
The report would be so much more meaningful if it had information such as:
Where it was moved to
1. Did they notify the city / county
2. Were neighbors notified
3. Who are the neighbors: Schools, Businesses, Industrial, Residential
4. What % of the $300k came from facebook / Bohannon or others - meaning what did we, the riding public pay?
Once again we may have to rely on Peter C. to give us factual information

Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of another community
on Apr 8, 2015 at 9:56 am

It's a pile of ballast. It's no different than any dirt pile anywhere in the country. Do you really believe the wind is blowing the rocks to dust and taking it airborne? For that matter, as another commenter said, what happens when you mow your lawn and blow the leaves around? It's a matter of perception and being unsightly, not an environmental health issue. get over yourselves and speak the truth instead of creating hysteria in trying to place blame on an entity for the wrong reasons. Facebook, their just jumping in to pat themselves on the back.

Like this comment
Posted by cleanup
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 8, 2015 at 11:03 am

Happy to learn that Facebook will work with Caltrain to keep this neighborhood from looking like a junk yard, but it's not clear what the health hazard is. The information on this topic is generated by PI lawyers. Web Link

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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