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BLM Testing Anti-Dust Solution

July 24, 2008

By Patty Henetz, The Salt Lake Tribune

Jul. 24–A short-term solution may be at hand to diminish damage to ancient rock art in Nine Mile Canyon, where big rigs serving gas drilling on the West Tavaputs Plateau are kicking up dust laden with corrosive salt.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is working with Denver-based Bill Barrett Corp. and county officials to test a relatively benign dust suppressant that may replace the magnesium chloride the company now uses to wet the steep unpaved roads that lead to its gas field.

The product, Pennzsuppress D, contains materials similar to pine resin and soap that can penetrate dirt and repel moisture but it doesn’t require water and can be ground up into the roadbed instead of sprayed on the surface.

“It looks like it has potential. It looks good. I am cautiously optimistic,” said Pam Miller, chairwoman of the Nine Mile Canyon Coalition, a conservation group dedicated to preserving the ancient Puebloan cultural sites spread throughout the area.

The BLM is testing Pennzsuppress D and other alternatives in areas that haven’t had recent magnesium chloride applications, said Brad Higdon, planning and environmental coordinator in the BLM Price field office. One of the test strips is in Cottonwood Canyon uphill from the famed Hunter Panel petroglyph.

Jason Pierce, whose family-owned Golden West Industries in Price uses Pennzsuppress D all over the globe, said the company is testing for any effects to rock art should a breeze lift the product onto the rock walls.

On Monday, Golden West will rotomill a test section. “That’s actually the best way to do it,” Pierce said.

The California Environmental Protection Agency in 2001 certified Pennzsuppress D for dust control, saying that used properly, it would reduce fugitive dust from unpaved roads without harming water quality.

Road-maintenance crews have been spraying heavy quantities of magnesium chloride on the dirt road since development of West Tavaputs geared up about five years ago.

Magnesium chloride controls the dust, but also clings to adjacent rock and attracts moisture from the air. The chemical can eat concrete. A typical 30 percent concentration freezes at minus 1 degree Fahrenheit. When that happens, the rock and the irreplaceable art carved into it expands and crumbles.

Applying magnesium chloride requires lots of water for repeat sprayings.

“You end up taking a lot of water from the creek,” Duane Zavadil, Bill Barrett’s vice president for government and regulatory affairs, said Wednesday.

Dust suppression is just one of many thorny matters the BLM must deal with in its environmental study, expected to be completed late this year. Endangered and threatened species, wildlife habitat, vegetation preservation and air quality are on the list along with significant cultural resources that have yet to be fully surveyed.

Impact study under way

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is working on an environmental impact statement for Bill Barrett Corp.’s proposed full-field development on the West Tavaputs Plateau in Duchesne and Carbon counties that would involve drilling 800 gas wells over about three decades.

Big rigs would make hundreds of trips up and down the narrow canyon road every week. The company estimates a yield of 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, equivalent to about 17 days of current U.S. consumption but worth billions of dollars.

Ongoing and potential harm to archaeological treasures is a major concern. The BLM has crafted an environmental impact statement alternative addressing industrial traffic in the canyon.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Salt Lake Tribune

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