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Published March 12, 2012, 09:51 AM

Dust control

VALLEY CITY, N.D. — Devin Weber, Mason Berg, and Jerome Lies incorporated WeberWorks LLC based in West Fargo, N.D., in May to market and manufacture a corn oil-based product for dust suppression and soil stabilization, in both agricultural and road applications.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

VALLEY CITY, N.D. — Devin Weber, Mason Berg, and Jerome Lies incorporated WeberWorks LLC based in West Fargo, N.D., in May to market and manufacture a corn oil-based product for dust suppression and soil stabilization, in both agricultural and road applications.

The three are from New Rockford, N.D., and went to high school together. Weber and Lies are cousins. Weber went to North Dakota State University for a year and a half to study agricultural economics and crop and weed science. Berg got a two-year degree in sales marketing and management at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Moorhead. Lies has studied electrical work.

Later, they all worked in a private horse ranch facility and arena in the Lake Park, Minn., area.

“They had a riding arena and we were trying to figure out something to control the dust in the arena,” Weber says. When dust problems arose, they tried using water in the enclosed arena, but it would have to be reapplied too often. They struck on the idea of trying a concoction that was primarily crude corn oil. There are various makers, but some of the material comes from an ethanol plant in Casselton, N.D.

“It was primarily corn oil,” Weber says. “We started playing around with it, adding in different starchy materials, binding agents to create the product we have now.” They use crude, raw corn oil, which is newly available in the market. They acquired a provisional patent on the compound in July 2011 and have exclusive marketing rights on it for their locations.

The product is designed to allow the binding agents to get down into the soil, and “grab loose particles and form together to create the base that we want,” he says.

The company shipped the product to the North Dakota Department of Health water quality area, the Environmental Toxicity Control Center in Minnesota and Summit Technologies in Ohio. Those entities confirmed that the product would not be harmful to the environment. The agencies mix the product in water, for example, and put minnows in the mixture to verify that it doesn’t kill fish. The company spent thousands of dollars to test the product for environmental safety.

“We’ve been applying it and doing various jobs around,” Weber says. He says he’s done jobs from the Lake Park/Detroit Lakes areas in Minnesota to the Dickinson/Killdeer areas in North Dakota. Most applications have been on gravel roads and farm yards. “People like it on their gravel roads for soil stabilization,” he says. “It keeps the roadbed in great shape.” It sheds the water off, so mud and ruts are reduced, assuming the road is shaped so that it is “crowned” and has the right grade.

The product cost varies. “Count on that 14 to 15 cents per square foot (applied), but there’s a lot of things that come into play — location, volume. If we’re doing a huge job we certainly can do a lot better than that price.” He encourages people to go to the company website and fill out a contact form with job dimensions and location. He says the company will get back to potential customers with a quote within 48 hours. The company has its own distributer truck with a high-pressure boom system.

The product has no money-back guarantee. Instead, the company says that if the customer properly prepares the ground “you’ll get the results you want.” The company will go back and do touch-ups where needed. Clients so far have included farmers, gas stations and counties.

WeberWorks is providing one of the products for a dust control study supervised by Francis Schwindt, a retired environmental head chief with the North Dakota Department of Health. The North Dakota Industrial Commission has committed $220,000 to the study, which starts in the summer in Dunn and McKenzie counties, where oil exploration activity raises a lot of dust. The state is looking for alternatives to magnesium chloride, which doesn’t last long.

“They’re taking all kinds of different companies that do dust control and giving everybody a stretch of road and they’re going to see how they stack up against each other,” he says. He can’t wait to see the results.

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