Community members, businesses outraged by ‘oil and chips’ work on busy roads

Business owners and community members along Babcock Boulevard and surrounding roadways are outraged by the results of sealing work recently completed by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

“This is like Armageddon. Something went wrong,” said Millvale resident Kristen Seiler. “I feel like I’m living in hell.”

Seiler is among the many residents on Evergreen Road whose homes and vehicles are now coated in a layer of dust after PennDOT used the “oil and chips” method to seal the roadways.

The method essentially requires laying tar on the roadway and topping it with small stones as a means of sealing cracks and preserving the street. Work began about two weeks ago, residents estimate, and the dust continues to disperse.

“I feel exacerbated and flabbergasted and confused,” said resident Barker Carter. “Seems like something you might see in rural America, but not a densely populated environment.”

Carter told Channel 11 that one of the small stones became lodged between his vehicle’s rotor and brake pad, requiring repairs. He’s waiting to find out how much the damage will cost.

Jeff Critchlow, owner of Jeff Critchlow Auto Body on Babcock, also noted the potential cost to his business in terms of constant cleanup.

He said workers are needing to constantly remove dust from customer vehicles, and his actual shop is also coated in the unwanted debris.

“It’s absolutely horrible,” he said, noting that for many businesses it’s been a “tremendous clean-up effort.”

Critchlow and several others contacted Channel 11 for help. Carter reached out to us after his complaints to PennDOT went unanswered.

Channel 11 did, however, get answers from the department.

We asked Lori Musto, assistant district executive for District 11, why this method was used as opposed to repaving with asphalt.

Musto said it’s “mainly a resource issue,” citing time, money and manpower as factors.

“In this particular case, it does appear, looking at this, we have some increased dust,” she said.

Musto pledged to evaluate what may have occurred to cause an excess amount and said crews will bring in “whirlwind brooms” which apparently use water to actually suck up dust and rocks.

“We will keep brooming this until the dust completely stops,” Musto said, claiming residents should see “a dramatic decrease.”

Claims can be filed against PennDOT for “extensive damage” here.

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