(Originally featured on Uvalde Leader News. Click here to see article)
by Lane Riggs, staff writer, Uvalde Leader News
Australians, Colombians and Peruvians were at the Harris Ranch last week for a two-day demonstration on suppressing road dust via an application of eco-friendly paraffin resin.
John Sewell, who manages the Uvalde/Kinney county ranch, engaged PennzSuppress of Grand Prairie to demonstrate to 30 visitors on June 7-8 how to suppress the dust on unpaved roads. The company demonstrated on the main road, from the gate to the house.
The application will last roughly one year.
“The product was suggested to us and we saw that there was a good benefit of employing the dust suppression,” ranch owner Mike Harris said. “We both benefited, as the company was able to use the project as training for international affiliates. It was interesting to see, because there were people present who were skilled in a variety of things.”
PennzSuppress president Chuck Johnson said he wants Sewell to drive on the main road and use a drone to record whatever dust he kicks up every month for a year to see if there are any changes.
“We all pitched in for the cost, as John provided the road base and we provided the product, and others provided the machines,” Johnson said. “It was a three-way thing so that we can all see this as a study point and test it out.”
Johnson mentioned that Sewell paid to get the roads ready for the dust suppression, and that dust suppression is something that is needed for most country roads.
“It’s a great utilization for country roads. There are just so many dust problems out here, and studies show that it is a global problem,” Johnson said. “It inhibits plant and animal growth.”
By applying the resin, Johnson said the roads will benefit not only the environment, but Sewell’s ranch as well.
With dust, there are many health problems that affect communities and animals. These include respiratory problems, irritation of the eyes, coughing, sneezing, and hay fever or asthma attacks. Creating dust-free roads can reduce the problem, so Johnson and Sewell were excited about the opportunity.
“I was excited to do something with John, because of the restoration that he’s done,” Johnson said. “It was one thing I could do to help him. And it was nice because a lot of ranches or companies either do nothing or spray water, and neither of those work.”
Spraying water is not feasible, Johnson said, as some parts of Texas are still in a drought, and water in South America is an expense.
“The thing with water is it evaporates very quickly, and then you have the same dusty conditions,” Johnson said. “The water is better used elsewhere. If you keep spraying, dust particles will get washed away, too. We make sure to bind the dust to make a more permanent, better road.”
Another positive is that the resin is environmentally friendly, whereas most other products are toxic.
“It’s the same type of control but it doesn’t hurt the animals or plants,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t hurt the environment at all.”
Harris said he was excited about the product and looking forward to the results.
“I think the results will be exceptional, as the comparisons are already dramatic,” he said. “We needed dust reduction, as that also helps to prevent erosion. The treatment will help, as it’s a pleasing aesthetic and has a nice appearance.”
For Sewell, the project is just another part of the renovations he is constantly making on the ranch, which this year received the Outstanding Lone Star Land Steward award given by Texas Parks and Wildlife.
“I hope by doing this, that others follow suit. I understand the open space, I know the water and air quality is important,” he said. “I want to push dust suppression so that I can inspire someone to do better. By suppressing dust, it’s good for everybody.”
After two applications on June 7 and a third on June 8, the road was deemed dust free.
“I came to learn more about the product and how to apply it to the roads in Colombia,” visitor Ayling Pena said. “We are always trying to find solutions to dust in industrial areas. Local communities want stable roads to prevent dust, and to reduce the use of water.”
Similarly, Giovanny Sierra, also of Colombia, agreed. He said he wanted to observe how the product chemically reacted on the road.
“I came to observe the properties of the product and any chemical reactions,” he said. “Dust creates a lot of health issues, like respiratory problems. I wanted to see the product that could overcome those things.”
“The product isn’t invasive, and it actually stimulates plant growth,” Johnson said.
Although nominees are asked whether or not their ranches are doing anything to suppress dust, Sewell is hoping to go above and beyond – again.
“We hope to bring kids from school out to the ranch,” Kim Evans, Sewell’s mother, said. “Some kids have never had a ranch experience before, so it would be a chance for them to see wildlife.”
Furthermore, Evans and Sewell hope to teach students about the environment and show them how their actions have direct consequences.
“We want to have them come up to the river, so they would see it and wouldn’t leave trash in the river,” Evans said. “A lack of knowledge causes pollution. The students need a better understanding, and they can have a curriculum here.”
Evans and Sewell hope to show students the diversity of the ranch, as the soil and plants on one side of the ranch are different from the soil and plants on the other side of the ranch.
“There’s totally different soils. If they see that and the importance of animals, the importance of bees, they’ll have that little bit of knowledge,” Evans said. “These things are something they need to understand, the relationship the bees have with plants and animals. These things are present at every point of life.”