The residents of East Bay, Rhode Island, remain divided over the Beach Avenue paving project plan. Can this coastal community find a solution in dust control measures?
The Beach Avenue project has been a bone of contention since early 2013 for the town’s residents. The controversy first bubbled up along this oceanfront road with the decision of Westport Town officials to open up the Knubble barrier beach and supply usable public access for seniors and the disabled via a new gravel road.
As Hurricane Sandy demonstrated, barriers like the Knubble act as the first line of defense against coastal storms and erosion, providing protection for homes, harbors, and diverse aquatic habitats. It’s therefore not surprising to find some residents visibly upset with the building of a gravel road all the way to the Knubble.
However, supporters of the plan present an equally compelling argument. According to EastBayRI, apart from bringing pedestrians and motorized wheelchairs to the beach, the accompanying dune restoration work will also allow four-wheel-drive emergency vehicles to access the beach for the first time.
Paved vs. Gravel: A Rocky Road
Several community members are also at loggerheads with each other when it comes to the question of treatment for the road — namely, whether to use a pavement or gravel surface. Arguing that the town has saved a sum nearing $60,000 by not paving the road, the Board of Selectmen make a strong case for keeping the road as a gravel passage, according to South Coast Today.
While gravel roads also require a certain degree of maintenance, these costs remain significantly less than those of maintaining and rebuilding asphalt roads periodically. By employing proper techniques and the latest materials on the gravel road, East Bay can further ensure a more cost effective and environmentally friendly option for the community.
Dust Control Solutions: A Win-Win Solution
One of the primary concerns arising from the use of gravel roads is dust. Not only is it a general nuisance for those using the road on a daily basis, but it’s also known to be a major health risk.
An air pollution study in the journal A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, jointly conducted by researchers from New York and Brigham Young Universities, revealed some startling findings. According to the study, amongst a population of 500,000 adults nationwide, deaths from lung cancer increased 8% for every 10 micrograms of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) per cubic meter found in a person’s immediate environment.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also developed stringent guidelines to monitor air quality and the concentration of particulate matter or dust particles (PM10 and PM2.5) in the air. The small dust particles (PM2.5) present the greater health risk here, as they tend to stick in the lungs once they’re respired into them.
Therefore, it’s crucial that gravel road operators deploy effective dust-control measures. Specialists with proven track records of minimizing dust emissions and maximizing health and safety should be employed. Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc., for example, offers a range of dust control products and services, all of which conform with strict EPA guidelines.
A dust control solution will surely provide some common ground for the members of the East Bay beach community. By resolving the dust removal and road preservation issues, the community will benefit from not only better air quality, but safer roads as well.
(Image credit: Hanaan Rosenthal/flickr)