While the application of water to untreated surfaces may reduce dust in the short-term, it’s far from perfect as a long-term solution. What alternatives are available for dealing with this age-old industrial problem?
For many industrial operations, sustainable and effective methods of dust control are a key concern.
Improperly regulated, dust emissions often violate increasingly stringent government environmental policies and can also be a nightmare on a practical level. High levels of industrial dust mean increased risk of fire and dust explosion, decreased visibility and substantial problems with site maintenance and cleaning costs.
A Short-Term Solution
The practice of using water as the traditional medium for stifling dust is simple: applying moisture to the surface of dirt roads reduces dust by causing particles to stick together, as the Alaska DEC reports. As liquids go, water is fairly cheap, prevalent, and takes no special engineering to produce.
This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s suitable.Using water as dust control involves a combination of sprays, mists and water guns. While light, frequent application is better than infrequent and heavy usage, the nature of the H2O molecule means that areas dry quickly, according to the Guardian.
Whichever way you look at it, water is an ineffective, short-term solution to what can often be a large scale, long-term problem.
Staggering Volumes of Water
One of the greatest issues associated with using water as a form of dust control is wastage. Sufficiently quelling dust-related problems requires colossal volumes of water.
Outdoor dust control operations in typically dry areas require “about four litres [or about one gallon] of water on every square meter, every day.” Applying this formula, a road roughly 3 miles long and 15 feet wide would require the use of roughly 6,000 gallons of water every day. One road this large uses as much water in a day as a family of four uses in an entire month, according to City Utilities.
Impractical and Unsustainable
Then there are the environmental concerns. Even assuming that there is water readily available in your community, recycling water that has been used in this way can be extremely difficult. This issue combined with the volumes of water needed determines that the method is both unsustainable and bad news for the nearby environment in an ecosystem already affected by the other aspects of the operation.
Detrimental to Regional Growth
Although Australia is known to have water shortages nationwide, dryer areas tend to experience the associated effects most acutely.
According to a 2010 report from Western Australia’s Water Corporation, towns in certain arid areas lost between 50 and 70 percent of their annual water supply to dust control operations on nearby stockpiles of iron ore. In these cases, the fresh drinking water typically intended by the townspeople was instead used in the mines, since water with any salt content can compromise the ore.
Such actions can lead to a widespread lack of water, which can in turn result in less development and growth in the areas in question. Growth requires more housing, housing which cannot be built without readily available water infrastructure.
More Effective Solutions
The good news is that there are better dust control alternatives available.
Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc. specializes in cost-effective, environmentally sound dust control products and solutions that can reduce dust emissions by up to 85 percent. Our Managed Service Program provides a comprehensive, site-specific solution to excess dust on stockpiles and the frequent use of unpaved roads and by major industrial operations.
While every project’s dust control needs are different, at the end of the day everyone’s goals are the same. Midwest helps to accomplish those goals, improving worker health and safety and reducing the impact of heavy industries on our communities and the environment.
(Image credit: Smerikal/flickr)