County focuses on dust standard for Nine Mile Canyon
In a special Carbon County Commission meeting on May 15, commissioners were told that the long ride toward being able to monitor and therefore get to the point of controlling dust in Nine Mile Canyon is getting closer to reality.
"Today, we are presenting to you the draft plan for monitoring of dust in the canyon," said Brian Barton of Jones and Demille Engineering, one firm working on the problem. "We are getting closer to helping with this problem every day."
A draft plan for developing a standard in the canyon was given to commissioners by JBR Environmental Consultants, the firm that has been working with Barton's company to find a way to monitor and then control the dust along the corridor.
The dust from the road has been a problem for years.
Tourists have complained that it makes trips up the canyon unbearable and rock art enthusiasts claim the dust is also damaging the thousands of panels that exist there from long ago indigenous cultures inhabiting the area.
The purpose of the standard is to control "fugitive" dust generated within the canyon by vehicle traffic, according to officials.
The objective of the standard is to set forth the dust suppression, opacity monitoring and reporting requirements as well as the commercial/industrial responsibilities for the operators that work there.
There was some discussion between the parties about what kind of traffic they wanted to have monitored, whether it would just be commercial/industrial traffic or all traffic. In the end, commissioners told the pair they wanted the process to measure the dust from all traffic.
The project is a shared effort with Duchesne County, which the road extends into for a few miles.
Duchesne has already committed $30,000 to the project, which is based on its responsibility for 8.34 miles of road within its borders.
More than 47 miles of the road is within Carbon County's boundaries.
The draft plan was presented by Aaron Hallenburg and Denise Khotala of JBR. And as they presented it questions about the plan came from the commissioners and others in the room as well.
"Coming up with this standard we had to look at the heavy traffic areas in the canyon and then research Utah air quality regulations," said Hallenburg. "We also looked at regulations other counties in other places in the country had so we could come up with a good typical ordinance."
Kohtala explained that fugitive dust is measured by the Ringleman Scale and is based on opacity.
For instance once dust is past a 20 percent opacity in the air it would violate the standard.
The same scale was used for monitoring emissions from smoke stacks on industrial plants a number of years ago when emissions were first being monitored.
The monitoring would be done by someone that is trained in the process (either a contractor or a county employee) who would use a set test in different places in the canyon to look for dust problems.
Reports would then be generated to warn industrial users who will be working with the county to suppress the possible dust problems that could or are occurring.
The notification levels would include:
â¢5 to 10 percent opacity would require the company(s) to water the roadway in the area observed.
â¢10 to 15 percent opacity would notify company(s) to limit road use in the area until the situation was corrected.
â¢Greater than 20 percent - notify company(s) to apply a suppressant agent.
"The idea of all this monitoring would be to forward the report to those that are responsible for controlling the dust and to take action before it becomes a problem," stated Milovich. "This is not a 'gotcha' kind of scenario but one of cooperation with the users of the road."
Hallenburg told the commissioners that, if the monitoring is "done properly, it is very solid and reliable."
But Commissioner Bill Krompel was concerned about who would be responsible.
"We have been able to work with road problems with coal hauling roads quite easily," he said. "We usually only have one mine or company really using the road. In the case of Nine Mile Canyon, we have a number of commercial users. This is a different kind of things to wrap our arms around."
Carbon land specialist Rex Sacco told the commissioners that other roads in the county, shared by multiple companies, have been maintained to prevent dust problems.
"The point is to get them on a maintenance agreement, one that they can work on together," said Sacco.
The draft standard, as presented, took into account various mitigating factors, including high winds (more than 25 miles per hour) and flash flooding, which occurs frequently in the canyon particularly in the summer months.
While commissioners hope they will never need to use the penalty phase of the standard, the draft spelled out a tier based fine system.
The standard also includes rules for track out (mud or dust put on hard surfaced roads from the area that can turn into dust as well).
"With your comments and suggestions today I believe we can have the standard wrapped up within a few weeks," said Barton.
Commissioners urged the companies to do so because they want the monitoring process to begin in the summer when the tourist season is going.
Barton also said other engineering processes are on the road to completion. Jones and Demille have completed the aerial mapping of the area and is now having land titles researched for right of way corridors.
He also said that a hydrology study is being done so that the company and the involved counties can understand the drainage problems in the canyon more fully.
The only glitch is that gas exploration companies working near and in the canyon are not sure where things are headed with a new federal administration running things, noted Krompel.
"Right now, because of the uncertainty about what is going to happen, they are not sure what they can do. They don't know how much development they can proceed with," concluded Krompel.