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McKenzie, Dunn counties apply for dust study

A semi leaves a cloud of dust as it drives down a Dunn County road Thursday. Dunn and McKenzie counties received a $220,000 grant to research effective dust control methods.

The North Dakota Oil and Gas Research Program approved a $220,000 grant to help McKenzie and Dunn counties find the most effective ways to control dust.

"There are a lot of products out there," said Francis Schwindt, Bismarck, the main investor of the project. "It will be primarily just trying different test segments, using different construction techniques and different materials to control the dust."

The project's total cost is $440,000. Both counties would provide $110,000 each in money or supplies as a local match to the grant funding, Dunn County Auditor Reinhard Hauck said.

Schwindt said dust is a serious problem in the southwestern part of the state, and the increase in traffic hasn't helped. Schwindt added safety has also become an issue.

"It impacts human and animal health," Schwindt said. "It may affect plant life along the road."

Schwindt said maintaining the roads have become expensive for the counties just to keep gravel on them.

Another concern on unpaved roads are soft spots. Schwindt said it is harder to control dust in soft spots because dust control doesn't stay on the surface.

"You need to make sure the roadbed is firm in order for any surface treatment to be effective," Schwindt said, adding the study would help find means to address this problem.

Schwindt said he submitted the proposal Aug. 15. An advisory board looked at the proposal Sept. 19, Oil and Gas Research Program Director Brent Brannan said. Brannan added the study was thorough and could be beneficial to other counties.

"(The goal) is to see if we can make some real strides in reducing this dust on these county roads and have some information for other counties to kind of take a look at these dust control issues and see what this study provides," Brannan said.

Schwindt said multiple forms of dust control have been used in Dunn and McKenzie counties.

He added the most popular is magnesium chloride, which is also used for melting ice.

Dunn County Road Superintendent Mike Zimmerman said the grant would be a great benefit to finding a solution.

"The county can't afford to do all the roads," Zimmerman said. "Some people get dust and some don't. We try to alleviate the ones that live next to the roads."

Both county commissions have approved the project. The counties will select which segments to test and what applications to use this fall and winter. The project should begin in the spring, Schwindt said.