After communities neighboring a cement plant in West Virginia found thick layers of dust, dirt and soot on their cars, the Department of Environmental Protection found the facility guilty of dust violations. With the right measures, this could have all been prevented.
Since early August of 2015, community members of South Martinsburg, West Virginia have been complaining about foreign dust residue on their homes and cars. According to Herald Mail Media, neighborhoods were concerned about "excessive opacity and particulate matter fallout." They pointed at Essroc, a cement company located nearby, to take responsibility for the dust in their neighborhoods. In late October, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection stepped in and determined that the cement plant was emitting nearly four times the allowable amount of dust, according to Aggregate Research, often in thick plumes that made the source of the problem very obvious.
“In the morning we'd get up and there would be a heavy film on the cars that didn't come off, even with vinegar wash. It was getting on [our community’s] houses and they would try to power wash it off and it doesn't come completely off," Kevin Knowles, a South Martinsburg city council member told The Journal.
In a report by Your4State, Essroc claimed this incident was a result of bad timing: a dry summer, particular wind conditions, and special truck loading operations that typically aren’t required for business. Essroc's Mid-Atlantic human resources director, C.D. Linton claimed “The cement and dust does not pose any [health] issue to anyone,” and that in the 150 years since they’ve been operating there, no health issues have been reported. Even so, community members are looking for a more permanent solution.
The Low Down on Dust
Dust is a serious problem for both human health and mechanical operations. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health's respiratory division, "even if clouds of cement dust aren’t made up of fine particles that contain much crystalline silica [and] they can still have other health effects," which also might include allergies or other skin irritations.
For mechanical operations, dust exposure leads to similarly destructive conditions that can wreck expensive equipment and delay operational plans. When dust’s fine particles sift through equipment it often reduces the airflow and can lead to dangerous overheating and electrical malfunctions, resulting in best case scenario, massive delays, and worst case scenario, serious hazards. At its current status, the cement plant in West Virginia is posing a risk to not only its employees, but the nearby community members and businesses.
The Good News
To combat all the dust, Essroc has focused on suppression during the trucking process by washing their trucks and treating their unpaved shipping road. These measures are a good start — but even more can be done to keep the factory in compliance and the community dust-free.
Thankfully, with the proper operating protocol, dust from heavy industry can be minimized. For more than four decades, Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc. has been working diligently on dust solutions, defending communities from dusty conditions, keeping companies within regulatory standards, and making a minimal impact on the environment. With help from Midwest, everyone in South Martinsburg — residents and cement producers alike — could continue to live safe, happy, and productive lives.
(Main image credit: booledozer/Wikimedia)