Illinois county offers deicing training
Communities that want to minimize the amount of road salt that gets into their streams can learn a few things from McHenry County, Ill.’s Transportation Department. The department has created a certification program for deicing truck drivers that teaches participants about proper application rates of materials, how to calibrate equipment, weather conditions, effects of storing materials, keeping surfaces safe, environmental effects, truck washing, and state and local laws.
McHenry County has had concerns about the overuse of road salt for some time and practices “sensible salting,” which seeks to minimize the amount of salt the county uses on its roads, says McHenry County Maintenance Supervisor Mark DeVries. The deicing certification program was created to teach participants about the harmful effects of chloride on groundwater, which is the county’s only source of drinking water, says Cassandra McKinney, the county’s water resource manager. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency sponsors the program and provides a matching grant to fund it.
The amount of salt needed to keep roads safe depends on the amount of snow, DeVries says, and deicing truck drivers are the ones with much of the responsibility for determining how much salt is needed to deice roads. “We’re taking proactive methods for sensible salt use, but it all comes down to the guy in the truck,” he says.
The county’s voluntary program certifies public and private drivers to spread salt. Two hundred people were certified last year through the program, which includes a written test and provides graduates with a windshield sticker to signify their commitment to protecting water resources. The six-hour training program is held at a county facility or at a community college. The program is open to anyone who registers, and there have been attendees from outside the county.
Besides concern about chloride in waterways, many communities are motivated to reduce salt use because of the cost of the material, which spiked last winter because of heavy winter storms. “If they [cities and counties] ran low on salt [last year], then they may have changed how often areas were plowed,” says Peter King, executive director of the Kansas City, Mo.-based American Public Works Association. “They looked at priorities for what roads to plow.”
Read more about McHenry County’s road deicing program.