September/October issue 2005

Settling Down

By Bill Tice

As vehicle traffic heads down country roads on a hot summer day, you often see a plume of dust rising into the atmosphere. In addition to reducing vision for other drivers and contributing to poor air quality, continued use of these roads without some kind of treatment for dust control can cause soil stabilization and erosion problems, which can lead to expensive road repair projects.

Jeff Brill has more to deal with when it comes to road maintenance than just motor powered vehicles. Brill is the Superintendent of the Highway Department for LaGrange County, a rural county with a population of about 35,000 people in the North East corner of Indiana. The South Western portion of the county is home to a large Amish population, who use the horse and buggy as their main means of transportation.

“The horse shoes are extremely hard on asphalt roads, so we have tried to maintain gravel roads as much as possible in the Amish Communities,” explains Brill. “However, many members of the Amish community manufacture furniture in small factories, so we also have to consider that these roads will have a fairly significant amount of truck traffic that will be making deliveries of supplies and picking up finished products. Because of this, dust control is very important.”

Brill says since he has took over the job of dust control in 1990, they have always used a 42 per cent calcium chloride solution for dust control, which right now is supplied by Dow Chemical. “The county has been applying dust control on gravel roads for more than 25 years, and the person who was in the job before me had tried various products including oil based solutions, but we have found that Calcium Chloride holds up the best under our specific conditions,” adds Brill. “The Calcium Chloride will penetrate 2 inches to 4 inches into the surface so we can generally do one treatment at the beginning of May that will last all summer long, and then in the winter dust is not a concern. If we use anything else, the horse shoes break right through the dust control layer.”

The trick according to Brill is to grade the road a few days ahead of applying the calcium chloride, which helps the application to adhere better to the surface, and allows for the penetration of the calcium chloride. He also says that in the areas of the roads they don’t treat for dust control, they see more destabilization, which can require additional maintenance. “Right now, on some of the roads we only treat the areas in front of homes, but I can see in the future that we will be treating the entire road, not only for health reasons, but also because the areas we don’t treat tend to get rough within a few weeks of grading. The dust control treatment has the added benefit of stabilizing the roads.”