Dust Control Systems that fail result in this image showing uncontrolled road dust

Why Do Dust Control Systems Fail? 

In Dust Control, EnviroKleen®, Guided Self Apply Dust Control, Industrial Facilities by Steve Vitale

“I’ve used everything, and Midwest is the only program that’s actually worked.” At Midwest, we hear this line over and over again after customers throw their hands in the air after using many other dust control systems. 

We’ve been doing this for a long time now; nearly five decades, longer than just about anyone else in the industry. During that time, we’ve seen it all. The failures. The frustrations. The ballooning costs and struggles to stay compliant with regulations. The negative effects on communities and the environment, either from not dealing with dust at all or from using toxic or inadequate dust control systems. 

We’ve also seen all the myths and misconceptions about dust control, such as the idea that dust control is a “one size fits all” process, or that the most affordable way to manage dust is with the cheapest dust control systems on the market. 

Time after time, we’ve seen how these misconceptions have resulted in failed dust control systems that cost operators far more than expected while not achieving required results. 

So why does dust control fail? And what’s the answer? 

Principles of a successful dust control system

A handful of core principles define a successful dust control system:

Principle #1: Differing site factors require unique treatment approaches. 
Every site is different. Soil type, weather, traffic volume and type — these factors can impact the effectiveness of your dust control efforts. For example, lignosulfonates can get adequate results in some places, but in dry areas with low dust plasticity, they are ineffective. 

When dust control vendors just sell you a product, with no accountability or follow-up, they aren’t taking these factors into account. They might sell you a product that works fine on your laydown yard that only sees minimal traffic, but that completely fails on your haul road that has to support a high frequency of heavy trucks. 

A good vendor should work with you throughout the entire process, from the initial audit to final application. They will assess your site, gathering critical information such as traffic flows, traffic loading, spillage, track-on, contamination sources and more. Product chemistry, soil types and industrial factors are all critical to product selection. 

When these components are taken into consideration, it’s much more likely that the product you purchase will get the results you need. 

Principle #2: A comprehensive program is more effective than any individual product.
Stemming from the last point, having a well-designed program will go much further to ensure the results you require than any off-the-shelf product by itself. 

Think about it: how much sense does it make to purchase and start applying a dust control product without first knowing what your objectives are? 

Your ultimate goal is a certain outcome, not a certain product. We typically suggest an 85%+ dust control standard and most products won’t even come close to that figure.

A vendor who doesn’t work with you to set and hit objectives might blame poor application, inclement weather or any other number of factors if their product fails to suppress dust. And since they never guaranteed a given outcome, they can’t be held accountable if that outcome isn’t adequately met. 

A program guarantees an outcome. At Midwest, we always start with your objectives, such as what percentage of dust control you need (for example, achieving 85% control may address all of your problems while remaining affordable, while trying to hit 90% may cost too much for diminishing returns).

Once we’ve established your goals, we can develop metrics that allow us to know whether your program is working or not. If not, we can tweak it. If so, we can use that information going forward to create a future plan. 

The advantage of this type of planning is that we can guarantee a certain outcome for a fixed monthly price, thereby eliminating the risk of unexpected budget increases. This offers you reliability and predictability, something unavailable from off-the-shelf products or vendors that don’t sell you a comprehensive program. 

In our program, we base our decisions on the following metrics: 

  • Target control efficiency: this determines how much product will be used based on that product’s chemical makeup, the conditions of the road to which it is being applied and the outcome that the client expects from the application process. 
  • Duration of time: when you purchase from a vendor, they should be able to tell you how long to expect results from a single application of their product, before needing another one. 
  • Cost per square foot: we’ll discuss in more detail under the next principle. 

At Midwest, over years of doing this, we’ve identified that the product only makes up 40% of the success of any given dust control effort. The other 60% comes from application. In other words, Midwest technicians can apply a competitor’s product and probably achieve better results than that competitor can, simply because of their depth of experience. Combine that expertise with the effectiveness of our product, and you have a winning combination. 

Each dust control chemistry requires a unique application method. It also requires equipment that is custom designed to apply it as well as applicators who have the knowledge to understand how factors like the speed of the vehicle carrying the application equipment can affect the product’s effectiveness. 

Because Midwest is focused on collecting and tracking the right data, developing a product that takes the most scientific approach to dust control and leveraging the application expertise of our scientists, we can determine in advance how our program will work for you. This allows us to offer you predictability: guaranteed results, for a fixed monthly price. 

Principle #3: Price dust control systems by the outcome, not the gallon. 
Think about this simplistic example: let’s say you can buy Product A for $10 per unit compared to Product B for $100 per unit. On the surface, the former seems the most affordable path. But this is where the dust control industry can be misleading. 

Imagine you apply the $10 product daily, compared to the $100 product monthly, where the latter has a longer-lasting impact. At $10/day for 30 days, you’re paying $300 a month for the “cheap” product compared to $100 per month for the “expensive” product.  

This is where understanding the last two principles comes into play. Once you understand that every site is unique, and that a program that takes this into consideration works better than a product by itself, it makes sense that a program like Midwest’s can help you optimize your costs so that your dust control effort becomes more of an investment than a money drain. 

Ultimately, what you need to know is the cost per square foot, per duration of time. This gives you an accurate idea of how much your program costs versus alternatives. 

Let’s look at the costs, both direct and indirect, that you might face when comparing an off-the-shelf dust control product to Midwest’s program. This scenario is based on an actual client, whom we wrote about recently

This client had applied lignosulfonates for dust control for years. To maintain the levels needed to remain compliant with local regulations, the industrial yard required daily applications. When Midwest stepped in, through our Guided Self Apply Dust Control program, he immediately saw a difference: his facility only required a monthly application. 

Here are the costs that were affected by our contact at this industrial facility: 

  • Direct: he only needed a monthly supply of Midwest’s product, EnviroKleen, instead of the gallons and gallons of lignosulfonate he was applying daily. 
  • Direct: he largely eliminated the water required to be mixed with the lignosulfonates. 
  • Direct: instead of paying for multiple tanker trucks to apply the lignosulfonates daily, he only needed a single flatbed truck once a month. 
  • Direct: the lignosulfonates created a cleaning nightmare for equipment, requiring extra resources for vehicle maintenance. 
  • Indirect: the decrease in vehicular traffic required for dust control made it easier for other vehicles to get in and out of the facility, thereby increasing productivity. 
  • Indirect: human resources which had been allocated to dust control could now be utilized elsewhere. 

When he switched to Midwest, we were able to give him a price per square foot, per time duration, like mentioned above. In this case, one tote of EnviroKleen effectively covered 54,000 square feet for one month before another application was required. 

Additional costs you may encounter:

  • In scenarios such as an operation that relies on daily watering, the constant use of watering trucks and the huge amount of water required to suppress dust work together to degrade the road surface, meaning road maintenance and repairs are needed more frequently. 
  • When using water (which is the most destructive element that can be used on roads), chlorides or petroleum-based products for dust control, another indirect cost is environmental damage, as harmful chemicals and toxic hard metals found in road dust are washed out of the road and into the surrounding ground and water.
  • Where roads come into contact with communities, these washed-out chemicals and metals can impact the health of community members, creating another indirect cost of heightened healthcare. 

Beyond product cost, all these expenses have to be taken into account. 

Putting it all together

For decades Midwest has provided done-for-you, managed service dust control programs to companies with large enough budgets to hire us to come in and completely remove the headache of dust control from them. These programs have taken into account all of the above principles, creating a “rifle” approach to dust control (compared to the “shotgun” approach of purchasing cheap products and hoping they work). This has allowed us to consistently deliver results. 

But as we increasingly heard from smaller operations who struggled with fugitive dust and inefficient dust control systems but couldn’t afford a managed service, we decided to translate our application knowledge and experience into a self-apply program. Called our Guided Self Apply Dust Control program, this offers smaller operations an affordable way to achieve the same results as our bigger clients. 

In this program, Midwest provides a diagnostic tool that, with a few quick answers, allows our scientists to prescribe the volume of product and the application rate. These are based on the many unique factors affecting your specific site location. We then provide you with our product and our custom application sprayer. 

Our product, EnviroKleen, is a synthetic fluid with a binder. Unlike chlorides and other off-the-shelf products that work by drawing moisture to the road surface (and cause corrosion to vehicles, environmental damage when washed out of the road or both), EnviroKleen works at the molecular level to bind dust particles together, creating a solid web. This locks both the fines (particles) and larger aggregate in place, preserving the road surface while controlling dust. 

Unlike lignosulfonates and resins, EnviroKleen is not water soluble (meaning it won’t wash out of surfaces), can be applied almost anywhere (lignosulfonates won’t work on dust that has low plasticity) and lasts much longer. And whereas petroleum-based binders are toxic for the environment (and are rarely used anymore as a result), EnviroKleen has been tested by a range of third-party labs and is certified as safe for the environment. 

Our Portable 1500 Application System is a spraying system designed specifically to offer the greatest amount of flexibility to operators possible. It can sit on the back of any vehicle down to the size of an F-150, providing versatility. We’ve adapted it to everything from flatbed trucks to fork truck equipment. The sprayers can be adjusted to produce the volume of spray desired and can easily be operated by the truck driver. 

Finally, Midwest technicians provide guidance and training to your team as they apply the product and evaluate results.  

To achieve consistent, reliable and predictable dust control results at your facility, it only takes one call to begin our Guided Self Apply Dust Control Program.