Getting Down with Dust Suppression

People who don’t venture beyond the city limits may not see why dust control is such a big deal, but it makes all the difference for those who drive our gravel roads. And it’s not just for driver comfort, either. It also enhances safety, reduces maintenance costs and maintains the quality of life for rural residents by keeping the dust down in rural communities.

Dust is a pretty big deal. When a gravel road becomes dusty, it starts to lose the fine, hard-packed earth that makes the road easy to drive. This fine material is the ‘glue’ that helps bond the road together. If that happens, the larger rocks and gravel that provide the strength for the road base will soon follow, which can make way for potholes and washboards.

To reduce the chances of that happening, once a year we use salt-based products called calcium chloride or magnesium chloride. The salt is hygroscopic, which means it can pull moisture from the air and hold on to it. This helps to keep things moist, but when it gets too hot and dry, we still need to spray water on the road surface to keep the dust down and get the most out of the calcium chloride.

There are more than 19,000 km of dirt and gravel roads that we look after, and to do that effectively, we need to prioritize. So the routes that see the most traffic will be done first. With regular treatments we can keep these roads in better condition and reduce maintenance costs. And that’s not all. Dust suppression provides other benefits that aren’t as obvious but just as important. For example, it reduces environmental impacts on the surrounding environment by preventing excessive build-ups of dirt on vegetation and in our waterways.

And, if you’ve never driven any of the province’s gravel roads before, it’s a great way to see the province.

Page 1 of 28 comments on “Getting Down with Dust Suppression”

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  1. Thank you for the article.

    I live in the Spider Lake Area on Vancouver Island Nanaimo District. The last 1 km or so of the road to spider lake park is unpaved and very dusty mainly from the local vehicle traffic and large trucks (up to 18 wheels per truck) coming through. These dust clouds settle in the lake and in the park where it is quite unpleasant. There is many families with young children including my own who frequent the park. Who do you suggest I contact regarding a solution such as the one above.


    • Hi Mike,

      This road may be under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Forests, but we suggest you connect with our local area office to confirm.

      3rd floor – 2100 Labieux Rd.
      Nanaimo, BC V9T 6E9
      250 751-3246

      Hours of operation:
      8:30 am to 4:30 pm Monday to Friday

  2. This is an information request from out of province. i live in NW Ontario in Rainy River. Our street was dug up last year to replace water main, and has still not been repaved due to legitimate causes. I asked the town if they could put calcium chloride on the street in the meantime, but they said since it was due to be repaved this summer (with asphalt)this was not a good idea. Does the hygrpscopic nature of calcium chloride draw moisture into the road bed perhaps leading to freezing issues on the newly paved road?? We do get very cold winter temperatures, and the concern would seem to make sense …but I see calcium chloride used as an accelerant for drying concrete which yu think would promote the same problem leading to spawling at least. Thanks for any help yu can give to a puzzled (and duty) neighbour on the other side of the prairies.

    • Hi John,
      We asked our Highway Maintenance manager and she agreed that applying calcium chloride on a road about to be paved is not recommended. It’s correct that the hygroscopic nature of the product draws moisture. The issue is that it creates a soft road subgrade. I hope that helps.

  3. I live on Pratt road in Gibsons.Currently there is a water main reconstruction in progress by the SCRD.The shoulders of the road are being dug up and a new main being installed.There is no dust suppression.I find it has come to be bothersome.My house is inundated with dust and grime.I feel this is personally and environmentally sensitive.For the past week my eyes are weeping and my nose is running.In an email to our elected rep.,Lorne Lewis,he told me there will be no dust suppression.What can be done?I believe they discounted this issue and now will not talk about it.Thank you,Trent Farrell

    • Hi Trent,

      We have directed your issue to the Sunshine Coast Regional District and they will be in contact with you to discuss.