EPA may help contain erionite in Dunn CountyThe Environmental Protection Agency may pay up to $2 million to help Dunn County contain dust particles on gravel roads that contain potentially dangerous erionite, an EPA official said.
By: Beth Wischmeyer, The Dickinson Press
The Environmental Protection Agency may pay up to $2 million to help Dunn County contain dust particles on gravel roads that contain potentially dangerous erionite, an EPA official said.
“Part of the dilemma that we all face right now is we’re still in that stage of trying to understand the significance of the risk in terms of these exposure estimates that we’re able to do right now with the data we have,” said Steven Way, EPA on-scene coordinator. “We don’t have a lot of definitive health effects data associated with certain exposure levels.”
Erionite is naturally occurring with properties similar to asbestos. A health study is underway regarding exposure to the mineral. Results should be compiled by spring.
EPA representatives met with Dunn County commissioners and other county officials in November.
“What I’m proposing is an option to work with them on evaluating some alternative dust control measures,” Way said. “That would reduce the levels of dust and in turn the fiber content in the air associated with the driving on those rural gravel roads.”
Commission Chairman Cliff Ferebee said on certain roads there is a quite a bit of traffic, especially from oil fields.
“The EPA is going to find some engineers to find something to try seal the roads up so that if there is an exposure to the erionite, it doesn’t get out to the bus routes, mail routes and all the traffic that we have,” Ferebee said.
Ferebee said the count has designated roads for dust-reduction methods and added that commissioners want it to be effective for at least eight to 10 years.
Ferebee estimates erionite is found on about two-thirds of the roads in Dunn County.
“We’re going to do some testing to see what will work, if they find a problem with the erionite,” Ferebee said.
“The estimate in my discussion (with the commissioners), I indicated that we (the EPA) might be able to use up to maybe $2 million,” Way said. “As far as a general objective, the idea would be to look and see what might work on these stretches of road with heavier traffic and how well they perform.”
Longer-term methods will also be researched, he added.
“We’re not talking about paving so much as using the existing gravels and then binding it with possible petroleum-based emulsions,” Way said.
If the EPA assists in the project, Way said it may be started in the summer, when road conditions are appropriate.
Way said the project would take the resources and commitment of state and local entities, “if we all agree that this needs to be done.”
“It’s precautionary if nothing else,” Way said.