A commercial water truck applies PennzSuppress to a section of the roadway in Nine Mile Canyon.
A project to repair and cover part of Nine Mile Canyon road with a different kind of stabilizer is moving along.
The coating called PennzSuppress is being applied by Golden West Enterprises, a company contracted by Bill Barrett Corporation to perform the work.
Barrett is the main developer of gas wells above the canyon. The activity has increased industrial traffic on the road dramatically in the past few years.
"What we are putting on is a kissing cousin of asphalt," said Colin Kimball, the product manager for PennzSuppress, on Tuesday. "But it is semi-solid when it sets up rather than hard like asphalt."
The road through the canyon has been a controversial topic in recent years as industrial traffic to extract energy resources from the area has increased. At the same time, Carbon County and other entities have tried to increase tourism to view the rock art and ancient habitation sights in the area.
Conservationist groups have repeatedly maintained that the dust from the road is ruining the rock art in the area and the traditional coating used to seal the road creates an even greater risk to the ancient writings than plain dust.
Kimball said the new material is different from the magnesium chloride in that it is a petroleum resin.
"This product was developed in the early 1990s and has had a lot of third party testing done on it, particularly for environmental safety," stated Kimball. "To apply it, we just mix it with water as a carrier agent and that drives it into the road's surface. Once the water evaporates, the surface sets up. It can all be done with a regular water truck.
Presently, the section of the road between Gate Canyon and the mouth of Harmon Canyon within Nine Mile is being coated with the material.
Kimball pointed out that the preparation for putting the material down is similar to what is done when applying any kind of coating. The road is being graded, crowned and smoothed and the soft areas compacted.
Golden West Enterprises is the local distributor for the product, but sells the same thing in many places.
"Presently, we are selling 10,000 gallons a month into Mexico," said Ellis Pierce of the company. "This product is also being used all over the United States."
"In fact, we sell it to the Sufco mine to keep the dust down inside their tunnels," added Pierce.
The material was originally developed by Penzoil. But when that company merged with Shell Oil, the American Refining Group purchased the rights to the product.
While the product is being applied in Nine Mile Canyon as a dust suppressant, it can also be used to stabilize soil and to control erosion as well.
"The county along with representatives from Barrett and concerned groups have been looking at various ways to control the dust in the canyon," said Carbon Commissioner Bill Krompel who is in charge of roads, on Tuesday in a phone interview. "This is one of a number of things we have decided might be beneficial to the canyon. Last year, we used some rotomill (recycled asphalt taken off state roads) for a couple of miles around some of the ranches on the road. Considering the cold and the snow that we had last winter, that held up pretty well. We are looking at a number of different things to help out there, and PennzSuppress is just one of them."
The particular section of road on which the suppressant is being applied this week is within Duchesne County.