Wind erosion of waste impoundments in arid climates and mitigation of dust pollution
Wind can erode and disperse fine-grained material from an impoundment of mining, industrial or municipal waste that stands above the level of its surroundings. Such dust dispersion can be a serious nuisance as well as a health hazard to inhabitants and animals in nearby settlements. It can also degrade crops, making them less marketable, and pollute soil, surface water and ground water. Wind can seasonally erode waste impoundments in all types of climate, but the erosion intensifies and persists for more of each year as regional aridity increases. As clouds of dust are often observed billowing across the top surfaces of waste impoundments in dry windy weather, there is a common misconception that dust arises from erosion of the top surface of an impoundment, resulting in much effort and money being misspent on top treatments when in fact the sloped sides of the impoundments are the true source of blown dust. This paper offers a brief review of general waste impoundment wind erosion issues and then focuses in more detail on the mechanics of how wind erodes surfaces of waste impoundments. Recommendations are offered for mitigating the effects of wind-eroded dust.