The web Browser you are currently using is unsupported, and some features of this site may not work as intended. Please update to a modern browser such as Chrome, Firefox or Edge to experience all features Michigan.gov has to offer.
When dust happens, EGLE'S Air Quality Division is there
July 13, 2021
For many Michiganders, enjoying a pleasant summer day in their own backyard is what gets them through the cold, dark winters. But what do they do when their ability to appreciate a well-earned summer day is interrupted by a cloud of dust? The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy's (EGLE) Air Quality Division (AQD) has some helpful information about who can be of assistance if you end up in a dusty situation.
What is dust?
Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, AQD staff hears from concerned citizens frequently about bothersome dust or "particulate matter." This dust is typically one of two things, "fugitive" dust or "fallout."
Fugitive dust is dust that has not gone through an exhaust stack. Fugitive dust may come from industrial activities, such as blowing through open doorways at manufacturing plants or blowing out of a storage yard. Or fugitive dust may come from things like dirt roads or farms. Dust is not always fugitive dust. There are instances where a manufacturing company may have malfunctioning equipment, which could lead to excess dust being emitted from an exhaust stack.
Fallout is dust that has settled out of the air and is covering or coating things. Fallout is usually visible to the eye.
Can EGLE help me if dust is bothering me?
The easy answer to that is "it depends". The real answer is that it is not straightforward and may be complicated to navigate. AQD staff is always willing to help a resident find the right person to talk to, but often the issue is outside of our authority to resolve. EGLE's AQD regulates industrial sources of air pollution including the dust that is emitted. Many dust issues residents may have, for example activities on private property or dirt roads, fall outside of our ability to resolve. However, that does not mean there is no resolution, just that it may be with the local municipality.
Who can help?
It can be exasperating to have an environmental issue and not know who can help. Often and understandably, by the time you talk to an AQD staff person, you may be frustrated from the hassle of trying to find a resolution.
Often, the nuisance of a business located within a neighborhood or next to private property is actually a zoning issue, not an environmental one EGLE has the authority to address. Suppose the home you purchased in a quiet township is located along a private street and the owner of the street decides to do some road maintenance as you sit on your porch sipping tea. You would need to speak with the local ordinance enforcement officer to determine if the cloud of dust interrupting your teatime is a violation of either a nuisance or private street ordinance. A quick internet search for your village, township, or city ordinances should get you to the webpage for your local authorities. Contacting them directly and asking to speak with an ordinance or zoning enforcement officer may be your fastest way to stop the dust from bothering you.
When should I file a complaint?
Consider where the dust is coming from, how long the dust is lasting, as well as if it is affecting you and your quality of life. Health affects you experienced should be noted in a complaint. A neighbor mowing a patchy lawn, is a temporary dust-causing event that is highly unlikely to cause harm. However, truck traffic exiting a dirt storage yard and leaving that dirt on the roadway to be stirred up anytime a truck enters or leaves the property can impact you long-term and is a good reason to call your county's AQD District Office.
Give EGLE a call!
When in doubt, the public is always encouraged to call EGLE's Environmental Assistance Center or to reach out to their local EGLE office to inquire about assistance. EGLE staff have many resources available to them and can often point citizens in the right direction by providing phone numbers or names of individuals to contact.
AQD would like to wish all Michiganders a healthy summer season! Here are some ways to file a complaint, should the need arise.
EGLE Environmental Assistance Center: 800-662-9278
If it is an afterhours emergency, call the Pollution Emergency Alerting System (PEAS): 800-292-4706
Don't forget to sign up to get alerts about air quality in your area - MIair.Enviroflash.info/
Photo caption: Dust emitted from malfunctioning industrial equipment.