Fugitive dust is a fancy name for a well-known problem. Dust particles that are produced by construction, demolition, farming or even from the surface of an unpaved roadway can be considered fugitive dust when they travel from one property to another. The EPA estimates that 25,000,000 tons of fugitive dust are produced in the United States each year, with about 10,000,000 of those tons coming from unpaved roads.
Fugitive dust can cause significant damage to mechanical equipment and electronic computer systems. It can also pose risks to individual health, particularly for those who are elderly, very young, or suffer from respiratory problems such as asthma. In severe cases, it can also damage plant growth and harm crops by reducing their ability to take in sunlight for energy.
The state Department of Natural Resources regulates the amounts of fugitive dust that can be produced in any given location. If too much dust is being released, DNR may require property owners to take certain steps to limit those dust amounts. These steps can range from applying water or even certain dust suppression chemicals to help regulate the fugitive dust.
The law also provides several exceptions for local governments and agricultural industries. Specifically, unpaved public roads are exempt from complying the with fugitive dust regulations, as are private driveways that are used only for residential purposes. Also, farmers engaged in tilling, planting or harvesting are exempt from the state limits.
Construction and demolition crews must be diligent about complying with the regulations on fugitive dust. Even those groups that are not required by law may wish to take steps to limit the dust to protect the residents of their communities from the potential harms of dust pollution. As with many forms of pollution, suppressing fugitive dust may take a little extra effort, but it can be well worth the return.