Does Increased Road Dust Due to Energy Development Impact Wetlands in the Bakken Region?
The Bakken region of western North Dakota and Montana from January 2012 to December 2013 saw an increase of 3368 oil wells, causing a major increase in road dust emissions. A portion of the energy extraction in the Bakken occurs in the wetland rich Prairie Pothole Region, and there is little information on gravel road dust emissions or the ecological impacts. The objectives of this study were to (1) estimate surface loading of gravel road dust during different times of year and at different distances from the road, (2) evaluate dust loading effects on surface water quality, and (3) evaluate the impact of dust deposition on wetland soils. Ten wetlands were tested in the energy impacted area and ten in an adjacent area without energy development. There was a 355 % increase in dust loading 10 m from the road in the energy impacted area compared to an area without energy development; meanwhile, there was only a 46 % increase in dust loading 40 m from the road. This loading resulted in an annual deposition of 647 g/m2 of gravel road dust close to the road. However, the effect of dust loading on the water quality and soils of wetlands was minimal when compared to wetlands not impacted by increased gravel road dust. The finding of minimal effect on wetland resources from increased road dust fills a knowledge gap in the Bakken on how energy development alters the environment.
KeywordsGravel road Particulate matter emissions Prairie Pothole Region Non-point source pollution Vegetation
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