Is area dust control dangerous?
July 17, 2006
A resident of the Midnight Mine Road area is worried that a private dust control effort is poisoning Castle Creek.But Pitkin County officials say Paul Disnard is wrong about the dust control substance and the danger to the adjacent waterway, which partly provides Aspen’s municipal water supply.”It smelled like New Jersey around here for a couple of days,” Disnard said following the application of the substance to slightly more than a half-mile of road on July 13.
According to county road and bridge director Brian Pettet, the substance is lignon sulfonate, a byproduct of the paper manufacturing industry and “basically tree sap.” When applied to a dirt road surface on top of a layer of water, it bonds with the dust to create a coating that looks like tar and can smell until it cures, Pettet said, adding, “It looks oily, but it’s not oil.””It’s totally natural,” agreed Pettet’s deputy director, Temple Glassier, who checked with the city’s water department before Pitkin County approved the material for use on the road.Pettet called the substance “the most environmentally friendly dust control product on the market that’s mass-produced.”It is twice as expensive as magnesium chloride, which had been used to keep the dust down on Midnight Mine Road 10 or 15 years ago, until neighbors complained it was killing the trees and poisoning the creek.She explained that a majority of property owners petitioned county commissioners to start their own dust control program in reaction to increasing construction traffic on the road. Residents paid $1,300 for 2,500 gallons of lignon sulfate and its application on the road; traffic counts on the road are not high enough to justify a county-sponsored dust control program.
Asked about Disnard’s concerns over water quality in Castle Creek, Pettet responded after a pause, “We’d rather it didn’t go into the creek.” But owing to the steep sides of the canyon and the grade of the road, runoff mixed with lignon sulfonate is unavoidable, he said.But Glassier noted the city’s water department, which objected strongly to the use of magnesium chloride on Midnight Mine Road, “never had a problem with lignon sulfonate.”Disnard, however, was not convinced.
“That’s oil-based,” he said of the compound. “And the way it was going into the river, something was wrong there.”John Colson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org