What is the single largest source of dust pollution in the United States? I saw this question on www.howtogeek.com and asked a few friends what they thought. I got answers like concrete factories, coal-fired plants, diesel and gasoline pollution, strip mines, and the Sahara Desert (source of many Cape Verde Hurricanes that threaten the East Coast in Summer). Although all are valid answers, the single largest source, which people from California might know, is the 108 square miles of the now dried-up Owens Lake, located in the mountains about 200 miles outside of Los Angeles. Starting in 1913, the Owens River and streams that fed Owens Lake were diverted to thirsty Los Angeles via their famous LA Aqueduct, and the lake level quickly dropped. The now non-existent lake is a large salt flat made of clay, sand, and minerals, and when the winds kick up, dangerously high levels of dust blow off the lake bed and into the surrounding areas of California.
Controlling such a large dust problem has taken big control efforts and even bigger money – billions of dollars over the years. Ironically, the most successful control measure has been pumping water daily from nearby city-controlled water sources to coat the massive lake bed with a shallow layer of water to keep the dust down.
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