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Kugluktuk finds new tool to battle road dust
Residents eager for clean air during the summer

Derek Neary
Northern News Services
Saturday, July 8, 2017

Millie Kuliktana is among those who detest the flying road dust that takes some of the joy out of every summer.

NNSL photograph

Water trucks applying moisture and calcium are relied upon to reduce dust from flying on the streets of Nunavut communities. Kugluktuk will have a new product to combat dust next summer. - photo courtesy of Mike Richards

Dust a constant concern in Cambridge

Other Nunavut communities also struggle to keep road dust to a minimum.

In Cambridge Bay, senior administrative officer Marla Limousin acknowledged that complaints about road dust are common.

"Our type of gravel dust is crazy here," she said. "It just sticks to everything."

She said the hamlet waits until spring runoff is over and the roads are thawed before heavy equipment is sent out to grade and roll the streets. Dust suppressant is then applied.

"It's a biologically friendly product," she said on June 30.

"You mix it with water. We've converted an old water truck to be the applicator for it. We've been putting it down, starting with all the main roads, probably about two weeks ago we started."

Limousin added that the hamlet also coats the main roads with salt water at select times to add extra moisture in hopes of penetrating the surface even farther with the dust suppressant.

Applications are done approximately once a week.

"At some point the material is supposed to just be OK. It's supposed to saturate and form that top layer, but we haven't seen that yet," she said.

Beginning this year, Cambridge Bay is breaking down its costs for dust control separately from road maintenance and snow removal, which were formerly all under the same budget, Limousin added.

"I have lung disease, and I'm one of several in the community," Kuliktana said. "You can't leave your windows open. You can't allow air to flow through your house because dust slides in as vehicles drive by on hot summer days ... and all the children are playing outside. Sometimes the dust is so bad it's like driving in a snowstorm.

"You can't even dry your dry fish and dry meat outside your home. It's just going to be covered in sand," she said.

Don LeBlanc, Kugluktuk's senior administrative officer, is sympathetic to those who suffer and are inconvenienced by the ubiquitous summer dust.

"We realize there are people out there with asthma as stuff like that," he said. "We apologize for that."

The application of water and calcium to suppress road dust started on July 4, a bit late this year, LeBlanc admitted, because the hamlet recently laid fresh gravel from its own gravel pit on the roads to upgrade them.

Next year will bring a new twist, LeBlanc says. With $175,000 in funding from the Department of Economic Development and Transportation, Kugluktuk has purchased a new dust suppressant product, known as EK35, that will arrive via sealift late this summer. EK35 is on a list of environmentally-friendly products recommended by the Department of Community and Government Services.

"This is a liquid product and it's supposed to last three years ... hopefully it will prove the success that they say it will (be)," he said. "We've worked hard to try to come up with a solution to that problem."

Kuliktana is certainly ready for something more effective than moisture applied to the dusty roads.

"The Band-Aid solution of watering the streets with water trucks is a waste of money. It's a stupid solution because within 10 minutes the ground is dry again," she said.

She has heard of old tires being used in other countries to create roads that aren't dusty like gravel roads.

"Is there scientific research out there that can allow the communities to recycle some of what's already in the community to do dust control?" she asked. "If they mulch up all the old tires ... mulch it up and turn it into roads."

LeBlanc added that the hamlet is also expecting a new grader to arrive on the cargo ship from Montreal this summer, so the roads will soon be kept in better condition as well.

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