Dust impact studies in progress for western North Dakota

By The Bakken Magazine Staff | December 12, 2014

University of North Dakota civil engineering professor, Daba Gedafa, recently completed a simple dust study to measure its impact on crops and livestock. The study measured and compared dust from unpaved roads in Mountrail, McKenzie and Williams counties in western North Dakota taking into consideration traffic, material type and weather conditions.

Canning jars mounted on a metal post, along with a traffic counter, were set up at each of the test sites to collect dust in the air. Three separate data collections captured during 27- to 36-day periods during July-August, August-September, and September-October were taken.

The study found the effects of the dust on crops includes reduction in photosynthesis, stomatal interference, increased incidence of plant pests and disease and reduced effectiveness of crop spraying. The effect of dust from unpaved roads on livestock included dust pneumonia, pinkeye, change in grazing patterns and excessive teeth wear.

Researchers at North Dakota State University are taking the dust research a step further. Five research proposals have been selected to receive seed funding to research the impact of road dust issues in areas of energy development across western North Dakota. NDSU announced receipt of five awards totaling $224,516 to conduct research over the next two years. 

“Measuring the amount of road dust from traffic and developing scientific data on its impact provides information as the challenge of road dust emissions continues,” said Kelly Rusch, vice president for Research and Creative Activity at NDSU. “The proposals selected for funding combine research approaches from different fields of study to provide an opportunity for wide-angle views of a significant challenge.”

Research areas include “Quantification of Road Dust and Its Effect on Soil Quality,” “Road Dusts: Their Abatement and Impacts on Human Health,” “Fugitive Dust Impacts on Plant and Landowner/Citizen Perceptions of Bakken Development,” “Development of Best Practices Approach to Unpaved Road Dust Control in Western ND,” “Full Spectrum Dust Control Techniques and Economy-Based Criteria.”

“Not only does it [the research] allow students to learn scientific methods, it also engages them in fast-track research to help provide information that can benefit communities,” Rusch said.