Dust Control for Unpaved Roads - Midwest Industrial Supply

A Prison of Dust — the Impact of Unpaved County and Township Roads on Rural Communities

In Dust Control, Unpaved Roads by Bob Vitale

For rural towns in Alaska and Canada, unpaved roads present a tangible threat to the very community itself. Residents are, in some places, literally confined to their houses during particularly dry seasons. Fugitive dust from unpaved roads shuts down tourism, affecting the local economy. It causes damage to vehicles, therefore requiring more repairs, increasing the financial burden on families. And the negative health effects plague young and old alike, especially anyone with previous respiratory conditions. We’ve been privileged to help communities implement dust control for unpaved roads across the globe.

Below, we share the reason we do what we do… customer testimonials about how we literally “saved lives” by helping their village and community elders and leaders gain control of the dust resulting from unpaved village and community   roads.

Déline, Canada

A Charter Community in the Northwest Territories, Déline has a population of just over 500 people. Fifty years ago, the local population lived off of the land and had no issues with dust. But by the early 2000s, this had all changed.

The residents are accustomed to spending most of their time outside. They walk everywhere, from work to the store. The children play outside in the streets. And many of the homes are situated directly on the unpaved road front. Yet dust control problems during dry seasons made those activities difficult. 

Here are just a few of the challenges — in their own words — as to the dust control issues: 

“The adults cover their mouths when there’s a truck driving by when it’s really dry…”

“My daughter has asthma, so [we’re] really concerned about air quality and stuff like that. It gets really dusty… and it’s bad for her.”

“We have a lot of people who love to walk on the roads, but you don’t see that too often.”

“You have to keep all your windows closed because even though you have a screen on your window, there’s still dust all around, inside.”

Other issues the community faced were respiratory issues for elders, lots of potholes in the roads and the need to regularly replace bearings and ball joints on vehicles. 

These were but a few of the comments we captured in just one community. Villages in Alaska shared similar problems of unpaved road dust control.

Dust Control for Unpaved Roads in Alaskan Villages

The tiny Alaskan village of Tanana attempted to use a generic dust suppression chemical on some of their village roads to confront the problem of dust. Unfortunately, one season of heavy rains washed that product out of the roads and into the surrounding environment. The comments shared above about the Canadian community were echoed by residents of Tanana.

Tanana isn’t alone. Dust is a major problem for many native Alaskan villagers. Many of their kids and pets play right out in the street. Any chemicals used to suppress dust, therefore get tracked into their homes. They also end up in the vegetation, local water sources and aquatic life.

Because dust particles can be carried long distances by wind, they can settle on ground and water sources far away from the source road. Just as a sampling of the effects of this, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists the following effects of unpaved road dust:

  • Dust makes lakes and streams acidic.
  • Dust changes the nutrient balance in coastal waters and large river basins. 
  • Dust depletes the nutrients in soil. 
  • Dust damages sensitive forests and farm crops. 
  • Dust affects the diversity of local ecosystems. 
  • And dust even contributes to acid rain effects. 

A Calling to “Save Lives”

At Midwest, we’ve been having these conversations with people for years. We’ve listened to their concerns, heard their stories. Our products reflect that. First, all of our products are independently verified as being safe for both people and the environment. Not only will our dust control products not leach out of your unpaved roads, but community members walking or playing out in the street won’t track it into their homes. 

Second, our products work. But don’t take our word for it. Listen to the words of relief from the citizens of Déline, Canada after Midwest applied EK35 to their roads: 

“It was just a big difference. It was like pavement.”

“When you have people who know what they’re doing, you have the proper surface material, you got good supervision, you know, good graders, people who know about grading and how to put it on the road and make a hard surface that will stay. Yes, it is worth it!”

“The roads are in really great shape. They’re in the best shape they’ve ever been.” 

“It’s worth the money… for the betterment of our community and our citizens.” 

Residents attributed more tourism, more outdoor activity and an overall better quality of life to EK35. 

All of this with a significantly improved quality of life because of a successful dust control program. 

Meanwhile, back in Tanana, only some of the village roads were coated in the generic product. The rest of them, as well as the local airfield and an access road into the town, had Midwest’s EK35 product applied. And the heavy rains that washed out the other product didn’t budge the EK35. EK35 turned out to be the only product capable of withstanding the harsh Alaskan environment. 

This is what we live for at Midwest — the opportunity to genuinely improve people’s lives. As  our chief chemist/environmental specialists once said, “I have a fierce pride that Midwest is so dedicated to helping communities and villages preserve their environment and the health of their wonderful people.” 

Visit our dust control for unpaved roads solutions page to learn more about how we can partner with you to improve the lives of the people in your community.

Bob is founder and CEO of Midwest Industrial Supply.