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UNPAVED ROAD DUST MANAGEMENT
A Successful Practitioner's Handbook

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CHAPTER 8 - ONGOING EFFORTS

THE ROAD DUST INSTITUTE

The Road Dust Institute (RDI) is an association (Figure 101) dedicated to improving road dust management in rural areas by collecting, storing and distributing information, discussing challenges and needs, and conducting research related to road dust, its consequences and its control. The RDI is now in the formative stage, but its website (www.roaddustinstitute.org) already provides information related to road dust and its treatment, and will soon engage the road dust abatement community as a whole.

The RDI seeks to advance the state of the practice by promoting research and technology transfer to improve unpaved road performance while reducing fines loss and minimizing environmental impacts. All of this will ultimately help reduce the cost of maintaining the national unpaved road network and reduce the environmental impacts (air, water and biological) associated with dust and fines loss.

ROAD DUST INSTITUTE PARTNERS

Federal Highway Administration - Federal Lands Highway Division

Western Transportation Institute at Montana State

University University of California - Davis (UC Pavement Research Center)

University of Nevada - Las Vegas

University of Alaska - Fairbanks

Figure 101. List. Organizations that formed the Road Dust Institute in 2010.

CURRENT RESEARCH

Significant gaps still exist in our understanding of the environmental impacts of dust control additives and surface stabilizers, but several studies have attempted to find some answers.
Examples include:

  • An EPA-sponsored expert panel in Las Vegas in 2002 identified data needs and a path forward for assessing the environmental impacts, and the subsequent report summarized existing knowledge of impacts for several dust palliative categories (EPA 2004).
  • Steevens et al. (2007) provided a summary of the properties and potential environmental exposure pathways for six new commercial dust palliatives of interest to the military. This report also included a freshwater toxicity comparison of these newer products with older, petroleum-based stabilizers.
  • Irwin et al. (2008) undertook work for the Environmental Protection Agency, providing a summary of the research to assess the impacts of six different chemical treatments on water quality and aquatic life relative to use of water alone.
  • A current study by the U.S. Geological Survey (funded through the Federal Lands Highway Refuge Roads Program) is comparing the freshwater toxicity of more than 15 dust palliatives, in both the original (as shipped) form, and a weathered form exposed to ultra violet radiation. This study also includes testing on a variety of aquatic and terrestrial organisms, including several plants. Field applications of selected products and monitoring of roadside habitats are underway at a National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, and additional field sites are being considered.

There is still the need for guidance on weighing the impacts of dust, gravel loss, frequent maintenance, hazardous driving, etc., against the impacts of the additives. It's always a question of how do we choose the right balance?

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