Thursday, April 27, 2017

Wet weather and dust. Wait, what?

Coming off of the wettest water year on record in Washington, it’s hard to think about windblown dust. But in parts of Eastern Washington it’s a reality when things dry out. The area is prone to this type of air pollution when the fine-grained soils dry out and start blowing in the wind. High levels of suspended dust are common and can cause health and driving risks.

It’s our job to monitor and track dust pollution in Washington to ensure that the state meets federal air standards intended to protect people’s health. And we like to make sure you know when dust storms are likely, so you can protect yourself and your family.

Infants, small children, asthmatics, and people with other respiratory and cardiovascular diseases are affected more than the general public, and prolonged exposure to blowing dust can lead to serious respiratory problems for these groups.

You can take a number of steps to protect your own and others’ health during a dust storm by staying indoors, wear a mask designed to block small particles, and avoid driving when windblown dust is likely.

The National Weather Service issues warnings when major dust storms threaten to create dangerous driving conditions by restricting visibility.

Tune in to local TV, radio and social media weather reports that share warnings for blowing dust. You can also check our real-time monitoring network for air quality conditions near you.

Managing dust near Kennewick and Wallula

This satellite image from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration shows wind blown dust sweeping across eastern Washington.
We’re focusing efforts to reduce dust in areas near Kennewick and Wallula because recent hot, dry summers have made soils vulnerable and extreme windstorms caused air quality values to go above federal air quality standards. The area is also called out in a federal rule and we’re required to create a new plan to manage dust around Wallula.

In the months ahead, we will update Wallula’s air quality maintenance plan, develop a new plan that outlines strategies to reduce sources of dust that affect people around Wallula, and produce a report demonstrating the August 2015 high values at Kennewick were naturally caused. We will also continue our work with the agriculture community to encourage farming practices that prevent soil erosion and reduce windblown dust.

Be on the lookout for opportunities to provide review and feedback on our dust management work later this year.

For more information contact Laurie Hulse-Moyer,

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