Nellis Dunes Recreation Area Dust Study Questions and Answers
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Why was a study done on Nellis Dunes Recreation Area?
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Las Vegas Field Office received a study that characterized dust emissions (dust study) in the Nellis Dunes Recreation Area (NDRA) as part of a regulatory dust mitigation plan conducted by University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The dust study at NDRA was conducted as part of a dust mitigation plan update that BLM is required to submit to the Clark County Department of Air Quality and Environmental Management as the valley is designated as a non-attainment area for air quality standards. 
What did the test results show?
Dust collections were performed on 17 different research units, using 68 collection stations in NDRA and three parking areas. All units were mapped and scanned for 66 different elements. Field experiments were also conducted to investigate the emission of dust produced by OHV use and natural processes. Three types of vehicles were used: 4-wheelers (quads), dirt bikes (motorcycles) and dune buggies. About half of the dust is caused by wind and the other half is caused by Off-Highway Vehicle use.
Key results of the dust study include the following findings:
  • Nearly all dust samples taken in the area contain palygorskite–a mineral with many of the same characteristics as asbestos. Minerals with these characteristics are called “asbestiform.” Palygorskite, like asbestos, is naturally occurring; however, unlike asbestos, it is not regulated.
  • The concentrations of naturally occurring arsenic in soil samples at NDRA are substantially higher (3.49 to 83.02 ppm) than soils elsewhere in the United States (3.6 to 8.8 ppm.) Currently there are no standards in the United States for arsenic in recreational settings. 
What will happen next?
BLM does not know whether the elevated levels of arsenic pose a health risk to recreational and other users of the Nellis Dunes Recreation Area (NDRA). As a result, BLM has requested researchers to conduct a Human Health Risk Assessment (Health Risk Assessment) of the area. The study will take approximately three years to complete -- preliminary data will be available and released to the public sooner -- and will provide BLM with information concerning whether these materials present a human health risk to recreational and other users using NDRA. If the materials identified in the dust study are found to pose a potential threat to human health and safety, the Health Risk Assessment will help BLM determine what, if any, safety measures should be taken at NDRA.

BLM will incorporate these findings into the Draft Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement for the Las Vegas Field Office. Public comment period is expected to open summer 2011. BLM will also incorporate these findings into the Recreation Area Managements Plans for the Las Vegas Field Office. Public scoping is expected to begin in late January 2011. 

Should I visit Nellis Dunes?
Nellis Dunes Recreation Area remains open to public use. The decision to visit or not visit the area is your choice. Final results from the Health Risk Assessment are expected in 2013; however, preliminary data will be available and released to the public sooner. 
As a point of reference, recommendations that have been made in other locations to reduce airborne asbestos exposure include:
  • Ensure vehicle windows are closed and air conditioning is on and in recirculation mode.
  • Ensure vehicles are not followed closely. Keep vehicle speed down.
  • Avoid areas with visible dust.
  • Bag, seal and launder clothing separately upon leaving the area. Wash vehicle exterior upon leaving the area.
  • Only travel customary route to and from property; all other use and access is prohibited.
  • Only engage in activities within this authorization.
How can I provide input on Nellis Dunes Recreation Area?
Provide comments during the comment period for the Las Vegas Field Office Resource Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement Revision (expected summer 2011) and the scoping period for the Las Vegas Field Office Recreation Area Management Plans (expected begin in late January 2011.)

Last updated: 01-27-2011