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Monday, January 30, 2012

Welcome

Welcome to my first blog post.  I hope that this blog will become a forum to provide you with information about dust control that you’ll find helpful.  Sure, we manufacture and sell equipment but I’m not here to hype our products.  I’ve been involved in dust control since 1978 - first as a chemist developing additives for dust control, then as a consultant putting together dust control plans and preparing permits and, since 1989, designing wet suppression systems.  I’ve been in just about every major industrial plant and mine in the US and then some including coal mines, steel mills, copper mines, quarries and shipping terminals. 

All that experience has taught me that dust control is a lot more than just having the right piece of equipment.  It’s also about good operating practice – training operators how to minimize dust and take personal responsibility for controlling emissions.  I’ve seen too many plants spend tens of thousands of dollars on a spray system or baghouse only to be fined because an operator did something stupid.  Years ago, we installed a spray system in a truck loading facility at a transshipping terminal.  This company had spent lots of money on an enclosed bay where trucks were loaded.  It was vented to a baghouse, equipped with curtains, and now with a brand new spray system around the perimeter of the bay door where the loader filled the trucks.  So, I’m standing there with the owner to start the system up and show him what it can do when a big ball of dust billows up from behind a warehouse.  Turns out that a trucker didn’t want to wait in line to fill up and got a hold of his buddy on a loader who agreed to sneak behind the building and load him up.  Well, guess who just happened to be passing by the plant when this happened – a state EPA inspector on his way to his nearby office – who wheeled into the plant and fined them $10,000 on the spot.

               
            It was a real shame. The plant had spent all this money only to have it foiled by an operator who violated best management practice.  Even worse, it cost the loader operator his job.

            Training operators how to minimize dust in their daily operations is one of the most-effective and least expensive control measures.  It doesn’t cost a dime and can really help to prevent fines and citations.

            Good engineering practice is another way to control dust and keep costs down.  Enclosing transfer points and installing dust curtains are easy to do and can often be done using in-house labor and material and go a long way to reducing dust.  I’ve seen a lot of new plant construction where there isn’t enough idler support under load points or where belts are loaded to close to the tail pulley which leads to fugitive dust and spillage.  The poor schmuck that has to bobcat or shovel that spillage up is going to get a noseful of dust.  In fact, that’s where most of the exposure to respirable dust occurs – when operators have to clean up the plant. 

            Look, good dust control is just good process control.  If it’s not going up in the air or spilling on the ground, it’s going into a truck, barge or railcar and and make money.  In these tough times, it’s more important than ever to keep the costs of dust control down and production up. 

            So let’s hear your questions, comments, and suggestions about what we can all do to protect our health and improve the bottom line.
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Thanks to Dave Carlson of Michigan Tech and Ken Cunningham of Sargent Sand as well as all the other organizers of the 17th Annual MSHA Winter Workshops of the Great Lakes District Council of The Holmes Safety Association, January 17-19.  I gave a presentation on dust control at the meetings in Gaylord and Okemos, MI and was joined on the program by Paul Cook of MSHA’a Small Mines Office.  Paul spoke about current MSHA concerns and trends and his office is a great resource for any mining company trying to wade through MSHA regulations.  Chuck Rehmann spoke about the hazards of silica containing dusts and Andy Crause of Bureau Veritas North American Health, Safety and Environmental Services gave a terrific presentation about dust sampling methods and costs.

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I’ll be at the AGG1 Academy at the AGG1 Forum and EXPO in Charlotte on Wed. March 14 at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte NC to present a program on “How to Control Dust”.  This program discusses how dust emissions from mining and material handling operations arise from four major sources: unpaved roads, paved roads, material processing and stockpiles. The presentation describes a method for developing a dust control plan that relies upon a combination of good operating and engineering practices coupled with wet suppression and dry collection systems. Based on the philosophy that good dust control is good process control, this method is designed to comply with regulation without sacrificing productivity. By treating dust control as a problem of process control rather than a regulatory issue I try to show plants how to employ low-cost, low-efficiency controls first in order to reduce reliance upon more expensive and efficient control measures.


These seminars are one of my favorite things to do and I’ll go anywhere anytime to spread the gospel about dust control.

Dr. Dust
Jan. 30, 2012

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