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Is there too much dust in the air?

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City, county and state officials have heard concerns about increased dust in the western North Dakota air and they are trying to figure out how to address the issue.

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"There is a lot of dust in the air, and we want to make sure that we are staying in compliance with the standards," said Terry O'Clair, North Dakota Department of Health director of the air quality division in Bismarck, on Thursday. "We're just going to take a look to see if we have anything really to be concerned about."

The health department has received numerous calls from county and city officials, including a call from the Upper Missouri District Health Unit, O'Clair said.

Added traffic, increasing development and dry, windy weather have caused parts of western North Dakota to be covered in a cloud of dust, O'Clair said.

The health department has monitors at Theodore Roosevelt National Park that show the surrounding area to be in compliance with Environmental Protection Agency standards, O'Clair added, but the department will install another monitoring system in Williston.

"They indicated that it was really dusty in the Williston area as well," he said. "They are specifically pointing to all the truck traffic in the area, and I'm sure Dickinson is similar."

Truck traffic kicks up dust everyday near Neal Steffan's home about seven miles west of South Heart and is concerned about his livestock inhaling it.

"I don't know what the answer is, but they need to start oiling the roads or some darn thing," he said. "It's never good to breathe it."

O'Clair added that the department has also given advice to developers across the state.

"A lot of times what they do is strip all the topsoil off in the fall, and then they started construction in the spring," he said. "By stripping all that topsoil off, you get the wind kicking up the dust for a long period of time when that development takes place."

Land in west Dickinson developed by Roers' Development of Fargo received criticism from nearby residents about dust blowing off its site. Dickinson resident David Kenjalo claimed at a Dickinson City Commission meeting that he had about $20,000 in damages to his yard.

Roers' has worked with the residents to address damages and has used a tackifier, or dust control, to contain the problem, Roers' Vice President Larry Nygard said.

"Particularly in that States Addition, it got a really high concentration of sand, so it makes it more difficult than what we work with (in Fargo)," he said. "It's a bad situation. I think everyone is doing what they can."

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