From “The urge to merge” (February 2012, page 28):

I enjoyed reading your article about local governments' attempts and successes in merging and sharing services. The only thing I found absent was any discussion of consolidating, streamlining, or reducing state (or federal) services. Local aid is being reduced (by the state) and we can only do what is within our control to streamline services and cut costs, but I think more emphasis could be placed on trying to reduce the oversized behemoths that have become our state and federal governments.

— John M. Menter, PE, public works director, Sherburne County, Minn.

Preventing clogged drains in fleet wash bays:

During our winter operations we are faced with what has become a significant issue for our fleet management facility. Due to environmental regulation, we're restricted from washing the salt sand from our vehicle beds outdoors — which is difficult to understand because it's the same anti-skid material we're using on roads.

Now we must wash the vehicles in our wash rack, which keeps us busy preventing the drains from clogging. We're spending more man-hours shoveling out the wash bays and stockpiling the material to have it hauled away.

Is this an issue that you or your readers have faced? What's the best way to combat clogging drains?

— Thomas J. Delia, fleet superintendent, Colorado Springs (Colo.) Public Services Department

Our Fleet Management columnist Paul Abelson responds:

I agree that being prohibited from flushing down your drains the very materials that you spread on your highways and into the environment seems contradictory, to say the least. But when regulations are written, the authors may overlook certain consequences to accomplish their desired outcome. You are experiencing such an unintended consequence. I can only recommend that you speak with your state regulators to see if they have any solutions.

In the meantime, I suggest installing additional screens to capture the solids more easily.

Since your situation is common to both public and private-sector fleets, I shall raise your question at the Technology and Maintenance Council of American Trucking Associations. Perhaps collectively we can come up with more solutions.