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Vacuum-Wielding Analysts Study Road Dust In Pocatello

Pocatello-area motorists are noticing pedestrians dressed in Day-glo orange vests, using vacuum cleaners to suck dust off roadways.

It actually is a scientific, ongoing program of measuring how much dust vehicles kick into Pocatello and Chubbuck’s air and the effectiveness of measures to reduce it.

For each of the next 11 months, they will gather dust samples from narrow strips of road at nine sites.

“Research has shown that silt loading is a significant factor for determining emissions,” Idaho Division of Environmental Quality air analyst Jenni Light said. “When you’re following a car and it kicks up stuff on your windshield, that’s part of silt loading.”

The Federal Highways Administration is paying for 80 percent of the estimated $70,000 study. The rest comes from local and state transportation departments and industry.

Sources of road dust include debris, pulverized sand and de-icing chemicals used during winter storms.

The area exceeded the federal 24-hour limit for small-particulate air pollution in January 1993. So, the Clean Air Act requires the communities not to violate the standard again through Dec. 31 this year.

Though the valley has not exceeded it since 1993, it also has not experienced the kind of weather inversions which trap pollutants near the ground, such as occurred three years ago.

Since 1993, FMC Corp. and J.R. Simplot Co. phosphate plants have spent millions to reduce their emissions. Residents are encouraged to install only clean-burning wood stoves and refrain from burning on dirty-air days.