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No easy answer to road dust

Posted 6/27/12 (Wed)

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

Though the dust control study being conducted in McKenzie and Dunn counties is not quite finished, so far the only product that has held up to the area’s conditions is the one McKenzie County has already been using.
While taking into consideration affordability, ease and ground contamination, this study was designed to determine which dust control product or procedure can hold up to the high volume of heavy load-bearing traffic present in McKenzie and Dunn counties.
“The volume of traffic and loads being transported impacts the road condition,” states Francis Schwindt, former chief of the Environmental Health section of the North Dakota Dept. of Health and the individual who organized this study.
According to Mike Dollinger, assistant county engineer for McKenzie County, seven different products were tested over a four-mile stretch of road in each county.
A half-mile was dedicated to each product, and one half-mile was left alone as a control variable for the study.
According to Schwindt and Dollinger, within 48 hours after each product was applied, it was as if nothing was ever there, with the exception of magnesium chloride, the product currently used in McKenzie County.
“We are supposed to confer with Dunn County to compare findings, but for us, the magnesium chloride worked the best,” states Dollinger. “We’ve been conducting these studies for years and magnesium chloride always prevails.”
Schwindt still has one more product he’s waiting to try for the study before he can conclude his findings.
“I’m trying to get a hold of crude oil so we can see how well that works at controlling dust,” states Schwindt. “If it works, it would be a good way to put that product to use.”
Once Schwindt gets a hold of the crude, he will continue conducting the dust control study. And, to ensure there are no ground contamination issues, the Health Department will also be participating.
“Asphalt is a petroleum-based product, too, and there are no issues with it,” Schwindt states.
Once Schwindt is able to test all the products, he looks forward to comparing McKenzie and Dunn County’s findings and completing his report in the fall.
“Dust is still an issue that we need to find a better solution for,” states Schwindt. “Maybe there is no better solution than the magnesium chloride. But it still has issues, so if there is a better product, we need to find it.”
Dollinger says, “there is too much traffic in this area and it’s too heavy and too fast for even the magnesium chloride to hold up. But nothing has worked better so far.”