With another winter just around the corner, imagine this scenario: All of your equipment is tested and ready to go, deicing products have been ordered and delivered, and your staff has completed its pre-season meetings and route dry runs.
Winter maintenance operations are just where they need to be.
Then it happens: You receive a communication from your local and state EPA.
They want to meet to discuss your department’s past salt usage, review your current operations and practices, and possibly identify areas in your community to monitor chloride levels in the water and groundwater systems. Then they’d like you to present a plan for using less salt. To put a cherry on top of the sundae, they may even tell you how much you must lower usage by.
That same exact scenario may not be playing out, but public works departments from the Midwest to the East Coast are being required to reduce chloride impacts from their winter maintenance operations.
For example, the municipality for which I work is in an Illinois county that sits on heavy sand/gravel deposits left behind from glacier movements, making groundwater contamination a very real issue. Monitoring wells verified what was feared: Chloride levels in some areas briefly spiked to unsafe consumption levels after a winter storm. As a result, we may soon have a total maximum daily limit (TMDL) for chloride in the groundwater.
If EPA doesn’t raise the issue, someone else might.
Farmers in Canada and Michigan recently sued their local transportation departments for salt damage to crops and loss of property value. The Canadian court awarded the farmer $100,000; in Michigan, the court sided with the DOT.
Next Page: Getting ahead of regulation