Training and testing activities on military installations can generate a significant amount of dust. Fugitive dust emissions result from mechanical disturbance and wind erosion of surface materials, especially in areas where the ground surface is disturbed on a regular basis. Common dust sources include unpaved roads, trails, staging areas, and munitions impact areas at weapons ranges. Military activities that generate fugitive dust include vehicle and aircraft maneuvers, artillery and missile firing, range maintenance, and construction activities. The dust emission potential of these areas also is affected by weather cycles and intensified by drought conditions that may be associated with climate change.
DoD faces tremendous pressure to continue training and testing while managing community relations and air quality compliance issues. DoD conducts military training and testing activities on approximately 30 million acres of land. These lands may be far removed from other human inhabitants or may be located in close proximity to populated areas. Development pressure continues in close proximity to many DoD installations, raising the potential risk of exposing more and more people to the environmental effects of military activities. The National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) regulate dust or particulate matter. It is expected that dust emissions from military installations can be subject to additional attention and restrictions to bring nonattainment areas into compliance. DoD installations also may be subject to restrictions associated with the Regional Haze Rule as it applies to visibility degradation.
Dust research goals include building basic understanding of the processes that control dust suspension, transport, and deposition. These processes depend on the properties of the soil, the method and intensity of suspension, and the prevailing meteorological conditions. Researchers are studying a variety of military activities prone to dust generation under a range of conditions. Other goals are to establish credible methods for characterizing emissions from dust sources and for monitoring dust on and coming from DoD installations and to develop tools enabling managers to make decisions that support critical military activities while achieving regulatory compliance and minimizing impacts on nearby communities.
Emerging results have begun to define emission factors for unique military dust sources. Researchers are studying tracked and wheeled military vehicles, looking at the effects of speed on the threshold for dust emission and the differences in emissions among different types and weights of vehicles. This work is elucidating the mechanisms that drive dust emissions, which in turn can be incorporated into existing dust transport models.
SERDP is continuing a sustained effort in fugitive dust emissions. Areas of current exploration include the following:
- understanding how to characterize relevant soil properties and surfaces for the purpose of developing more accurate and useful predictors of airborne dust emission potential
- understanding the impact of the quantity, duration, and characteristics of military activities as a function of surface and landscape characteristics on the generation of fugitive dust
- understanding how soil, vegetation, meteorology, and terrain characteristics interact with physical processes in the atmosphere to affect dust transport
- improving DoD’s ability to achieve source compliance and ambient fence-line monitoring for fugitive dust emissions and to identify opportunities for mitigation
The ultimate goal is to integrate the latest scientific understanding into tools to support decisions by training and testing area, range, and resource managers.