A crucial step to the development and coexistence of the oil industry and farming community is controlling dust from North Dakota’s roads.
As the oil industry expands in western North Dakota, existing road infrastructure is lacking and even harmful to local communities. According to Twin Cities Press, vehicle miles traveled in western North Dakota increased 25 percent
Improving roads is a priority for US Senator for North Dakota, Heidi Heitkamp, who also notes the inordinate increase in traffic, as the roads in their current state present safety hazards and industrial inefficiency. One of the main problems on these roads is the large amount of dust kicked up by passing cars, trucks and semis.
However, it would cost $548 million to pave unpaved roads in addition to other preventative measures.
Dust presents health and environmental problems, many of which adversely affect North Dakota’s largest industry–farming. In addition to the reduction of farmland that the expansion of other industries has required, the dust that is generated also adversely affects existing crop yields and livestock health.
Dust comes from both unpaved roads and new digging methods. Ron Ness, President of the North Dakota Petroleum Council quoted in the Bismarck Tribune says that the oil industry wants to improve dust control but the high-quality gravel necessary is limited.
The farming industry is also adversely affected by chemical spills, vehicles hitting their livestock, and increased traffic delaying transportation of crops and tools.
Proliferation of dust also affects the health of local residents. Apart from the obvious air pollution, dust in parts of North Dakota has been found to contain harmful carcinogenic minerals, as High Country News reports.
Working towards a Solution
Twin Cities Press estimates that road improvement will cost $548 million to pave unpaved roads and a further $377 million for paved roads, not to mention $70 million on bridges in the next two years. Other less costly options are being explored, however.
The Bismarck Tribune even reports that wider use of brine, a by-product of oil extraction, is being considered. North Dakota State University is also researching effective dust control methods.
Midwest Industrial Supply, specializing in road dust control methods, also has a variety of products that are tailored to each need. Midwest takes into account the use of the road, the types of vehicles that use it, volume of traffic, its structure and substance, as well as financial cost, and is able to offer solutions for every situation.
As more research into sustainable dust control is conducted, North Dakota may arrive at a combination of solutions that minimize labor, cost, and, most importantly, dust.
Working towards dust control is essential for the development of the state where there is already unnecessary tension growing between the local farming communities and the oil drilling industry. Dust control will be beneficial to all parties and will help North Dakota’s development in long term. It is a crucial investment that is starting to receive more and more attention.