"The Fierce Politics of Dust"

"A small town in southern Utah wanted to suppress dust on its roads. Not everyone was pleased."

"On a sunny afternoon in June 2019, in southern Utah’s remote alpine hamlet of Duck Creek Village, an elderly man shuffled between the ponderosa pines lining Erin DeLoe’s gravel driveway and asked her for $200. It was for the dust, she recalls him saying, a shared neighborhood problem. In response to increasing traffic from outdoor tourists on all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and weekend visitors escaping Las Vegas or Salt Lake City, residents had hired a Wyoming-based company called Dustbusters Enterprises to spray their roads with a magnesium chloride solution meant to tamp down the dirt surface.

DeLoe, an accountant, was just back from a trail run and, admittedly, covered in dust. She told him she didn’t think she wanted to support that. Then she went inside to scour the Internet for information about magnesium chloride.

According to the research DeLoe found, magnesium chloride, a salt, can dry out roadside vegetation and even cause tree death. She would soon set out to bring this trade-off to light, sparking a two-year-long battle with her community over the health hazards of dust — and how best to keep a drought-stricken mountain town safe from the threat of wildfire and the downsides of tourism."

Joan Meiners reports for the Washington Post magazine with photographs by Chris Caldwell November 30, 2021.

Source: Washington Post, 12/08/2021