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.

26 comments on “Getting Down with Dust Suppression”

Leave a Reply to Anais Cancel reply

  1. We live on Simpson Rd on Mayne Island. This road is very active with traffic and when the suppression of dust works it’s great but increasingly dry weather is causing it to lose effectiveness. Can the formula be reapplied so we can get some relief when our in our yard from the large plumes of choking dust? Please and Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hello Lee-Ann,

      Thanks for your message. We have forwarded your concern to our maintenance contractor, to re-apply dust control on Simpson Road. You can also connect directly with our maintenance contractor in the future with any requests or concerns. Here’s their contact info:
      EMCON Services Inc
      1 866 353-3136

      Website: emconservices.ca
      Twitter: @EmconSouthVI
      Facebook: @emconservicesinc

      Reply
    • Hello Anais – thanks for your question.
      Dust control products are used in compliance with Provincial and Federal Environmental guidelines and regulations. Maintenance contractors are required to follow best practices outlined in MOTI’s Environmental Best Practices for Highway Maintenance Activities and limit the application of dust control products to the road surface to limit overspray.

      Reply
    • Hi Brad,

      Thanks for your message. We shared your concern with our local area staff who let us know that our maintenance contractor superintendent has advised that dust control is starting soon and will be completed by June 1st as per the Highways Maintenance Agreement.

      However, under the Highway Maintenance Agreement, levels of service for road maintenance depend on the “highway classification”. Lind Creek Road is a class 6 road. I have attached a table from the maintenance agreement that shows locations requiring dust control on a class 6 road, which includes section (b) dust control in front of buildings that are within 50 m of the travelled lanes. Our road superintendent has advised that your residence is well beyond 50 m from the road, which is why there wouldn’t be any dust control applied in front of his property. If you would like to request that the maintenance contractor apply dust control for you, please contact YRB directly at

      Yellowhead Road and Bridge (Fort George) Ltd
      1 800 218-8805

      Website: yrb.ca/yrb-group/ft-george
      Twitter: @YRBFortGeorge
      Facebook: @yrbfortgeorge
      Instagram: @yrbforgeorge

      https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/driving-and-transportation/transportation-infrastructure/highway-bridge-maintenance/highway-maintenance/maintenance-agreements/maintenance-specifications/chapter_1_surface_maintenance.pdf

      Reply
    • Hi Kim,

      Sorry to hear that. Unfortunately, we aren’t responsible for hiking trails, but if you have a concern with dust there, we suggest you connect with the operator of the trail themselves (municipality, BC Parks, etc.) Thanks for connecting with us here!

      Reply
  2. Is it possible to request that a road be done a second time in a year? I live on Sweden Creek Road in Prince George, and would like to request that Silver Road have the calcium applied again. This road is right across the highway from my home and has very heavy traffic, so it is producing a lot of dust which tends to float through the air over to my home.

    Reply
    • Hello Catherine,

      We have heard back from our staff in the area and they informed us that the dust suppression application has been re-activated with recent rains and when they travelled the area, they did not feel any further applications were required. If you still feel that this is an issue, please let us know and we will follow up with your request. Safe travels.

      Reply
  3. I live on Blackwater road north of Pemberton BC in area c. This has been my home for the last 12 years. Birkenhead lake provincial park is at the end of the road. There used to be some dust suppressant applied here and there on the road before the park, but not anymore. The park itself is suppressed. The dust last year was the worst yet.The issue is the increased popularity of the park and the vehicle traffic associated with that. On the weekends it is not uncommon to have a car pass by my home every 2-3 minutes. Sometimes more. As well the last couple of years there has been and there presently is active logging in the valley. The valley we are in is steep and narrow and the prevailing winds start at lake and blow down the valley by all of our homes. Walking on the road is unbearable at times. There is a constant haze throughout the valley when the air is still and the fire bans are in place. We are aware that acquiring silicosis is a real possibility. Please help our community. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Alain,

      It seems that your home is on the border of our service areas. Could you please help us determine which maintenance contractor to contact, by providing your address? i.e. House number on Blackwater Road

      Thanks!

      Reply
    • Hello Alain,

      We spoke with our local area manager, who directed us to the resource road manager for this region concerning your request. He indicated that in past years they have done sections of Blackwater Creek Forest Service Road, specifically areas around rural residences. Unfortunately, they are unable to provide this service any longer due to limited funding. If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact the Sea to Sky Natural Resource District office:

      Office:
      604 898-2100
      Email:
      FLNRO.SeaToSkyDistrict@gov.bc.ca

      Reply
  4. 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.

    Thanks

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
  5. 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  6. 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

    Reply
    • Hi Trent,

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

      Thanks!

      Reply