Fugitive dust is a term used to describe the tiny particulate matter (PM) of soil that float in the air and don’t settle back down quickly after soil is disturbed. Soil can be disrupted by natural events like high winds, and by traffic, construction, and farming. It can come from open fields, empty lots, dirt roads, and storage piles. The EPA, state, and local air quality departments regulate the amount of fugitive dust that is allowed. Those regulations determine the dust that is allowed before the citations and fines kick in.
Particulate matter can cause concerns for driving safety, plant growth, electrical and mechanical equipment. But the primary reason PM is regulated is due to health concerns. When it is inhaled, it easily travels to the lungs and can cause breathing difficulties, eye irritation, respiratory illnesses, lung damage, and even premature death. PM has been linked to weakened immune systems, increased severity of acute bronchitis, asthma, and emphysema, heart attacks and increased lung cancer risks.
Fugitive dust is worse in areas that have high temperatures and low annual rainfall amounts. The heat dries out the topsoil and high seasonal winds will cause it to blow before normal rainfall occurs to soak the soil and hold it down. To address fugitive dust concerns, it is regulated on a federal, state, county, and local level. It is the responsibility of the individual or business landowner to regulate and control fugitive dust. In most locations, you are prohibited from allowing fugitive dust to leave your property.
While this is not an all-inclusive list, below are 9 Methods to Prevent Fugitive Dust:
- Plant Vegetative Cover
Cover crops can be planted in open, empty fields, on berms, in between tree rows, and in between crop seasons to ensure that fugitive dust is controlled.
- Maintain Plant Residues
Plant residues (crop materials) like stems, leaves and roots can be left in place after harvest to help control fugitive dust and improve soil organic matter. These residues also lead to a better absorption of rain.
- Create Wind Barriers
By constructing fences/structures or planting woody foliage perpendicular to the dominant wind direction, landowners can reduce wind speeds and capture larger particles.
- Stabilize Roads, Lots and Fields
Applying a road stabilization or dust control product to access roads that are major thoroughfares or have heavy traffic will greatly reduce fugitive dust by binding the smaller PM to larger aggregate. It will also reduce the amount of water that may be used by a water truck trying to control the dust – sometimes up to 50%. You can also apply dust control products to fields and lots to prevent the fugitive dust.
- Maintain Rough Surfaces
Keeping tilled land surface rough with large clods versus working it to get smaller clods, will help keep the particle size large and reduce the amount of PM that is going to blow when the weather turns windy.
- Limit Soil Disturbance Activities
For areas that are not farmed, prohibiting grazing and off-road traffic will allow vegetation to grow and create natural soil stabilization. For farming enterprises, reducing the passes in crop areas and combining tractor operations can help minimize the fugitive dust created during normal tillage.
- Reduce Vehicle Speeds
While it will not be a popular approach, PM is effectively reduced when the speed limit is lowered. Enforcing that limit and changing the driving habits of those that regularly travel the roads may be a challenge.
- Restrict Vehicle Access
If a privately owned farm road has become a local shortcut, restricting the access to owners and workers will significantly reduce the fugitive dust that is created.
- Water Before Activities
If it is possible to apply a minimum amount of water via irrigation or sprinklers before earth moving, planting, harvest, or end of season tilling, the PM from fugitive dust can be minimized.
Working within the requirements of your local department of air quality or environmental quality is not optional. Ensure that your project, farm, or mine is meeting or exceeding the PM requirements to avoid citations and fines. If you need help in securing fugitive dust, contact your local sales representatives or give us a call at 877-718-3878. We can show you the options for dirt roads, parking lots, construction and mining piles or any other earthen location that needs to be secured.