Kicking up dust

Controlling “fugitive dust” in Laramie is a multifaceted problem dealt with by two separate organizations, Laramie Public Works Division Director Earl Smith said.

As part of the Laramie City Council’s work session Tuesday, Smith briefed the council about both the city’s and the state’s dust control efforts inside city limits. The topic was requested by Councilor Klaus Hanson.

For dust control in alleyways, Smith said the city uses chemicals throughout the year to keep dust down.

“It’s a solution of magnesium chloride and some other chemicals that are designed to control dust,” he said. “(The solution) binds the smaller particles together, but (it’s) most effective when there is a little humidity in the air, and it absorbs that humidity, allowing the water to keep the dust down.”

Because of the solution’s effectiveness in humid conditions, Smith said the city tries to use the solution most often during the spring and fall, but unpredictable weather can make it difficult.

“If you travel anywhere in the western United States, a lot of municipalities use this product,” he said. “Our budget for using the product is roughly $30,000. We could use it more, but the cost would go up.”

On construction sites, the city defers to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Smith said.

“When a subdivision comes in, and they start their over-lot grading, they have to get a permit from the (Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality),” he said. “That permit has to do with primarily erosion from the site due to runoff, but there is an air pollution element for dust control.”

Hanson said the city received several complaints in the past about “fugitive dust” from construction sites and asked what the city could do to enforce the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s permit standards.

“Our staff will go and inform the contractor we’ve received a complaint, which solves 90 percent of the situations,” Smith said. “If the contractor is not responsive, we have no enforcement options. So we call the (Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality), and they are fairly responsive.”

Creating a community standard for dust control, however, could be a challenging, Councilor Dave Paulekas said.

“I’ve eaten a lot of dirt in my life, so I have a pretty high tolerance,” Paulekas said. “But there are some people with low tolerances, who can be set off by just a little dust in their house.”

If the city were to consider creating dust control policies in the future, it would need to balance resident complaints, unpredictable wind speeds and contractors’ efforts to comply while still meeting construction deadlines.

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