Latest Entries

Combustible Dust at Work: How to Stay Safe and Explosion Free in the Workplace

Explosion

Zwergelstern/Wikimedia Commons - A flour-dust explosion

We examine the risk of combustible dust in the workplace, what dusts are combustible, the elements that cause them to explode and how testing and awareness can significantly reduce the danger of dust explosions on the job. Read the rest of this entry »

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What Chemical Labels Really Mean & What You Need to Know

We all can benefit by more and better manufacturer-buyer dialog about the issues related to chemical safety and identification, and the proper storage, handling and use of chemical products.

Regulation is necessitated by carelessness, heedlessness and recklessness that bring us frightening headline realities about the damage and danger, real or potential, caused by leaks, spills, fires, and other accidents. Just look at the headlines dominating the news today covering chemical related incidents.

These are the relevant regulations which products used for controlling dust, road and surface stabilization or reconstruction must comply:

• Clean Water Act (CWA)
• National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)
• Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPP)
• Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures (SPCC)
• Facility Response Plan (FRP)
• Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA)

Click here to read up on what they require and how they pertain to your business.

What should we, the manufacturer and buyer, do given that the public expects regulators to ensure that water quality and the environment is protected and that chemical dust suppressants use comply with the laws and regulations.

Simple: Keep fully informed of, observe, and comply with all federal, state, and local laws, ordinances, and regulations as well as permits issued by the United Sates and the state in which you are located.

We recommend you require the manufacturer supplying you product to document how their product must be stored, handled, and used specifically to meet these regulatory requirements.

We invite dialogue and welcome your questions, comments, or concerns,

Robert Vitale
CEO and FOUNDER
Midwest

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Chemistry 101 – Molecular Structure

Chemistry 101 – Molecular Structure

I love “How To …..” books; they quickly educate and turn complicated tasks and technology into understandable information. So I thought, “How best do I describe one of the factors in molecular chemistry that has a critical impact on the performance of products used for roadways whether unpaved or gravel, whether mine haul roads, gravel runways, or drilling pads?” So here is the chemistry 101 for today on synthetic fluids vs. base oils.

The best, most perfect molecular structure for a chemical used to build or maintain a surface is one in which all molecules are exactly the same. Identical. That’s what you get in a synthetic fluid.

Base oils are made of inconsistently sized and shaped molecules, a difference that causes inconsistencies in product performance.. More importantly, the inconsistencies result in uneven environmental compliance from one part of a surface to another.

There! Now you can chat knowledgeably with chemical engineers over the barbeque pit this weekend. Well, in all seriousness, opting for a synthetic fluid over a base oil is a truly wise choice. Making it, though, requires a little sleuthing on your part to make sure you are, in fact, buying what you think you are. Others are attempting to duplicate our Synthetic Fluid Technology, but to date they are still using base oils which they claim are synonymous with synthetic organic fluids.

Click here to read “Synthetic Fluid for Results; It’s All About the Molecules,” the latest in our series of Intelligence articles. The more you know about a product from the inside-out, the fewer issues you will have with your total cost of ownership when it comes to when it comes to preserving a new road, runway or pad.

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Addressing Challenges of America’s Visible Energy Independence

$2 Billion in road repair needed for Texas!
Yes, that’s billions with a “B”. The energy boom in Texas is absolutely great for the local economy and for the country, but costly road repair is a consequence. This needed road repair   requires an equally new and dramatic solution to remove this consequence.

A recently completed two-year study titled “Texas Energy Developments and TxDOT Right-of-Way” the first statewide assessment of the energy boom’s wear and tear on Texas roads released these findings. As part of the study, researchers developed a database and dynamic map that shows the location of existing and anticipated energy production sites throughout the state, including wind farms in west Texas and oil and gas wells in the Barnett Shale region of north Texas and the Eagle Ford Shale region of south Texas.

These township and county roads were not originally created to handle the truck and equipment traffic it takes to support the energy industry in this area.

The good news, Midwest and other companies are working with oil and gas producers to establish strong, durable roads, well pads and access roads with new “successful” construction technologies which can withstand the wheel loading and vehicle passes associated with oil and gas exploration and production. These new engineered processes include:

  • A newly developed, patented, system of synthetic fluid and synthetic fibers for use in construction of roads and well pads where  aggregate availability is limited, where marginal soils must be used, or where roads and pads  undergo  severe damage as a result of  moisture and freeze thaw exposure.

 

  • A system of synthetic fluid and binders which preserves the as-constructed surface integrity of unpaved or unbound gravel roads

Both engineered systems improve CBR, establish a water resistance matrix, and maintain surface strength during heavy load exposure in spite of thaw or rain events where normal construction methods are damaged and require costly repair

Energy independence is possible and our industry has to step up with new and innovative “inventions” which solve the problems our energy producers and local communities need.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BE_303BKMKA

Bob Vitale, Founder & CEO Midwest

Erosion Control Magazine called Bob Vitale “the godfather of dust control” for a good reason: Long before the word “green” meant something other than a color or one’s inexperience, Bob recognized the hazardous short- and long-term dangers of the chemicals being used to control dust, erosion, and ice. Starting with the company’s first dust-control product which was introduced in 1978, Vitale’s company has been an environmental advocate not only by developing non-hazardous solutions and the equipment with which to apply them, but also through ongoing research – the company’s own and third party. Midwest has been named to the Inc 500’s list of top environmental services companies for five of the last six years. When he is not reading, breathing, educating about and actively working to develop Earth-friendly products and services, Bob is an avid collector of, and expert on, one of Earth’s bounties:  fine red wine.

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Midwest named to Inc. Top 100 Privately-Owned Environmental Services Companies, for the 5th year!

“I’m truly proud of the wonderful team at Midwest. For over 35 years we have been focused on creating environmentally safe solutions for the hundreds of dust control, erosion stabilization and anti-icing/de-icing applications. Inc.’s recognition of our efforts to be environmental stewards within our industry is a wonderful acknowledgement for our staff and our customers who have believed in us to solve their vastproblems over the years.”

Bob Vitale

Founder, CEO

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Just Because a Product is Called a Synthetic Fluid Does Not Mean it is One

Mark Twain said “The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug”. And words are never so important as when used to describe important environmental attributes. There are a couple of words that, used together, have kept me up at night for more than a decade: (1) Synthetic (2) fluid.

First they kept me up as a scientist eager to bring an idea into reality. Now the reality is that they keep me up because they have been misused, misrepresented, and misappropriated in the market. That results in misguided buying decisions that do not meet expectations in terms of life cycle cost, performance and environmental impact.

Midwest’s role in the development of synthetic fluids started back in the late nineties. When the biggest technological burden the world faced was Y2K, Midwest was working on another global concern: keeping the Earth green. Given the power that dust and the products used to reduce it can have on human and animal health, aquatic systems, food sources and other plant life, we set out to invent a new technology for dust mitigation.

We call the result Synthetic Organic Dust Control®, a game-changing manufacturing process used to create synthetic fluids that are more environmentally sound – and subject to fewer cumbersome regulations – than older dust control products that are oils.

The benefits of synthetic fluids over oils are significant. Marketers, therefore, are calling products synthetic fluids even when they are not synthetic fluids as defined by the EPA. As a buyer, you need to ask the right questions to assure you will not end up liable for unintended consequences in the form of costly reportable incidents and regulatory fines. That is why we have written a paper comparing synthetic-based fluids to oil dust suppressants. The tests tell the story. We provide the narrative. You make the judgment about the kind and class of dust suppressant that will best meet your needs.

Please take this matter seriously. I really need to get some sleep!

Click here to read ”Synthetic-Based Fluids Versus Oil Dust Suppressants: A Comparison of Environmental and Regulatory Issues”. Continuing work is under way, and we will publish it as soon as it is available. This article is one in a continuing Intelligence series because at Midwest, we believe that the right information is everything.

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Great case in point – Self-Regulation by Education!

We’ve been developing a theme throughout our messaging lately, which calls for self-regulation through education. The notion is for an end-user of a dust control product/solution to educate themselves about their unique need, the various options they have, what the REAL and total cost implications are (the choice is between a lifetime value decision – or a short-term fix) and the environmental impacts… then you can make the most appropriate and informed decision for your circumstance.

Take a read on the Larimer article linked here. This is a great twist on Regulation by Education. They self-regulated themselves and stopped using magnesium chloride for about five years, then recently having reassessed the use of mag, they are considering beginning mag chloride use again due to low cost and effectiveness.

But there are tradeoffs – environmental issues! (Of which they are properly informed.)

Their concern is that other products are more expensive and less effective and that they do not have very many option. However while this has been true in the past it is not the case today when you think “life-cycle value” and performance. There are products that are manufactured with the intended use of dust control and gravel road stabilization – that meet very specific criteria in terms of environmental soundness and long-term, cost effective performance. Their unit price is higher than that of mag chloride and other more traditional palliatives but their cost of use can be as much as 50% less when an analysis of the life-cycle cost is calculated.

Using an environmentally sound product is being socially responsible, whether by choice or regulation, and it may require a broader perspective in order to make the decision because there is an important measure of each product’s short- and long-term performance.

While you want a product that is kind to the environment, you also want one that works! As an industry, we must further define sustainable dust suppression and gravel road stabilization products and regulate (i.e. be open to new principles or conditions that customarily govern our behavior) ourselves by better understanding what will lead to the use of the most sustainable products. This will require ongoing in-depth research and development with some demonstration roads used in the evaluation so that new products can be evaluated and prove if they can do a better job preserving natural resources such as water.

Ask the vendors you evaluate what they are doing in this area.

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TCO – Critical to your Dust Control Strategy

You consider TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) in so many decisions you make each day. From really big purchases like the car you buy and the house you live in to your next computer and printer. Even the smaller ones: Do I buy that single unit coffee maker or stay with the conventional drip maker.

But when it comes to your Dust Control solution, too many just decide by price. It just doesn’t make sense. Here is what we have noticed, time and time again.

A company makes their decision on lowest price. The product they have purchased has, let’s call them, “reduced qualities” to the products formulation, which means they work well on initial application, but quickly wear down and need additional applications. A number of issues arise:

  • Water washes the product away, maybe into a drain or even a body of water – Trouble with a capital T.
  • The need to keep extra Dust Control product on-hand for on-going maintenance – Increased costs for storage.
  • The need to regularly apply more product to keep their dust issue under control – Increased cost for handling.
  • The need to constantly monitor their road or site area since the product they used needs constant maintenance – Increased costs in management time.
  • And way too many times there are accidents associated with use of a low-quality product that result in way too many costs: from medical, to lost time, to legal, to public relations, etc., etc.

In the end, we get called back in to review the original project, help determine what went wrong, and get hired to provide the proper solution. All they needed to do was consider TOC when they started their evaluation or their project.

TOC – it’s time it becomes part of the decision-making process for Dust Control Solutions.

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Toxic Coal Ash – 20 New Dump Sites Just Found!

The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) has found Arsenic and Other Dangerous Pollutants contaminating groundwater and soil at 20 new coal ash dump sites. Since 2010 the EIP has identified 90 such sites. You read that right 90! (read article linked below)

There are solutions to mitigate arsenic and other pollutants. At Midwest we have been dealing with Coal Ash for more than 30 years. Here are some of the things we have learned:

  • Geotechnical engineering is an essential part of coal ash storage facility design
  • Parameters used for coal ash strength and stability can vary from site to site
  • Industry resources are available and can make important contributions to develop solutions (Midwest and other companies have products and services specifically designed to assist with Coal Ash)

Midwest is kicking off a new campaign in 2012 themed “Regulation by Education.” Our goal is for companies and organizations to better understand the implications of the dust control products and services they are using to solve both what seems to be simple and complex challenges. The issues many organizations are having with Coal Ash is an example of how they can self-regulate and prevent dangerous arsenic and pollutants from contaminating the environment.

Read the article here.

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Regulation by EducationSM — We are going to make a difference.

Last month’s accident on Wetzel County’s Blake Ridge Road where a natural gas drilling truck rolled over, the third such occurrence in a week, got my attention – really got my attention. No driver error here. The problem was that a chemical that ostensibly was to makes a road safer, may have actually made it dangerous. My ire would be no less – probably more – if it were a Midwest product involved in the incident.

The bottom line is that it is time for someone to step up and bring important change to the game, and that means self regulation. The EPA has risen to the occasion in the last few years, helping to create regulations related to dust as a pollutant. But there is no regulation or industry oversight – none, zippo, zero – regarding the chemicals and their applications used to control dust. It’s 2011 and it’s still the Wild West out there!

I tasked my team to create a plan to help bring awareness and creative solutions to this critical issue so, among other things, we won’t be seeing any more incidents as we did on Blake Ridge Road. They proposed a broad-based communications effort – we are calling it Regulation by Education – to educate industry influencers and decision-makers about the questions they need to ask before committing to a dust-control solution.

Here are some questions you should have answers to before committing to a dust-control solution for roadways:

  1. Is the product you are considering certified effective or environmentally safe? By which independent third parties? If so, for what has it been certified and by whom?
  2. Do assessments meet ASTM and AASHTO standards?
  3. Has any supplier you are considering asked for samples of your roadway materials to determine the optimal dust-control product and application treatment for your problem area?
  4. Can the supplier you are considering customize a product solution for your unique needs, based upon laboratory and field testing?
  5. Has your supplier done a competitive cost-per-performance comparison for three-, or five- year programs to demonstrate lifecycle cost savings?
  6. Have suppliers talked to you about the short- and long-term impacts their products have on the environment?

In the absence of true regulations for product development and application, Midwest has regulated itself for more than 35 years now, a practice started because of our own concern about the environment long before such concern was trendy. We have also learned that products that are gentle on the environment can also, over the not-so-long term be gentler on our customers’ wallets.

Over the next few months Midwest’s R&D teams will help craft “self regulation recommendation” guidelines that will help assure that your project is estimated and executed with a focus on environmentally-friendly, safe products that deliver the best cost/value and have a positive impact on society and your community, not the negative impact of an overturned truck or worse!!

Contact us now if you are in the consideration phase of a project. We’ll be happy to answer the questions above – and many others – so you can make a truly informed decision about which vendor will deliver the most for you.

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