Flathead County has a serious dust problem, and after struggling to implement a number of stopgap measures, it needs to find a permanent solution.
Although it may seem innocuous, dust is a source of real anguish for residents of Flathead County, Montana. The problem stems primarily from the large local network of gravel roads that stretches over 500 miles.
At 50 miles long, the North Fork Road is the longest and most used road in the county — and not so coincidentally, it’s also the one in most need of effective dust control measures. As of late, those have proven especially difficult to greenlight, primarily due to a lack of adequate funding.
A Handful of Dust
Currently, Flathead County’s dust control measures are estimated to cost over $62,000 annually, which translates to roughly 88.7 cents per square foot. To meet these costs, funding has to be pulled in from a variety of sources: the Forest Service contributes a portion, and federal contributions are matched by the county.
However, the complicated web of income makes the whole system continually prone to problems and shortfalls, which, in turn, leads to unreliable road maintenance, according to the Hungry Horse News.
At the moment, road work is behind schedule, as money for the most recent road maintenance project was appropriated too late. But there’s an even greater problem at hand: despite inadequate funding, Flathead County’s current method of dust control is both ineffective and overly expensive, as well as potentially harmful to the environment.
More than anything, their current solution is, at best, a stopgap measure, which decreases the degree of service that their limited budget can provide.
Hungry Horse News reports that their current solution, magnesium chloride, “holds the gravel together…[and] the road lasts longer with the residual chloride that builds up from year to year.” And while this may be relatively cheap, it doesn’t get to the heart of the problem.
Magnesium chloride has indeed proven to exhibit some degree of effectiveness, but it also has some critical flaws. The chemical is water soluble, which means that it leaches into soils. It’s also corrosive, and works as a humectant to pull moisture from the air — requiring a climate with moisture.
Chlorides work best when first applied, but any rain or subsequent watering dilutes them and makes them ineffective.
The result is that, for one, its impact is greatly reduced over the long term, but also that it affects the chemistries of the local environment. Both of these factors really come into play in times of inclement weather, which means that the road is most vulnerable to decay when residents need it most.
What Flathead County really needs is a sustainable solution that is more affordable and eco-friendly, while confronting the issue of dust at its source.
A Better Solution
Although their current strategy might keep things moving in Flathead, there is still serious room for improvement. Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc. offers a variety of rigorously tested dust control solutions that are affordable, easy to implement, and effective.
Proven products and services like EnviroKleen® and EK35® dramatically transform the roadway from rutted and dusty into a smooth, pavement-like surface. By binding together the fines — the glue that holds the road together — these products increase the load-bearing capacity and ruggedness of the road over a much greater period than conventional methods.
And more than that, they completely eliminate airborne dust.
Midwest addresses dust at the root of the problem. Their Fines Preservation® program traps dust, and keeps roads in an as-built condition, saving operators substantially on road maintenance costs.
Crucially, EnviroKleen, EK35, and Fines Preservation save municipalities money over the long term because of their lasting effectiveness. And since they are non-water soluble and will not leach, they promise to remain stable, even in harsh conditions.
Given the unpredictability of the weather and its sources of funding, Flathead county needs this type of solution — namely, one that’s built to last.
(Image credit: J. H./flickr)