The Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) has won a 2017 Safe and Sustainable Snowfighting Award from the Salt Institute for excellence in environmental consciousness and effective management in the storage of winter road salt. RCOC is the only road agency in Michigan to receive the award.
The non-profit Salt Institute notes that clear winter roads protect lives and commerce. The Institute cites statistics from the federal government that more than 116,000 Americans are injured and over 1,300 killed every winter as a result of pavement that is covered with snow, slush or ice. But, a study of highways in Snow Belt states showed that road salt reduces crashes by up to 88 percent.
When the direct and indirect impact of road shutdowns on the broader economy is factored in, road salt becomes even more valuable, the Institute points out. A one-day major snowstorm can cost a state $300 million to $700 million in lost commerce and productivity.
In fact, deicing pays for itself within the first 25 minutes after the salt is spread — making proper salt storage and timely deicing a smart investment.
“RCOC works year-round to prepare for winter road maintenance, including finding ways to utilize road salt more effectively without impacting the safety of motorists and while balancing environmental concerns,” RCOC Chairman Eric Wilson said. “Salt is still the most cost-effective way to keep roads safe during snow and ice events. Additionally, over the years, RCOC has equipped its trucks with salt spreaders that control the rate of application as well as technology that allows the application rates to be remotely monitored,” Wilson added.
“The old days of tilting the dump box and opening the tailgate to dump salt are ancient history.”
RCOC has six salt domes and three brine wells that service more than 2,700 miles of county roads and 230 miles of state highways. “We must be efficient with taxpayer dollars,” noted RCOC Vice Chairman Greg Jamian, “so we use the salt and brine very effectively and efficiently throughout the winter.”
Jamian noted there are brine tanks on all RCOC salt trucks so that brine is sprayed onto the rock salt as it is spread by the trucks. “Mixing the brine with the salt activates the salt more quickly, and makes the salt much more effective. This has allowed us to reduce salt spread rates by about half. The brine also enables the salt to continue to function at lower temperatures,” Jamian explained.
“We have also experimented with other materials, such as beet juice, to treat roads during snow and ice events,” RCOC Board Member Ron Fowkes said. “The evidence is clear, though. The use of salt and brine is the most effective method to treat roads and keep them safe for motorists. We also need to keep Oakland County moving during storm events because a shutdown would also have a drastic impact to the economy.”
“These facilities have cleared a high bar,” Salt Institute President Lori Roman said of RCOC’s salt storage facilities. “For example, in minimizing salt runoff alone, 10 specific recommendations must be met.”
“The familiar sight of trucks spreading salt on icy winter roads gives motorists reassurance” Roman added. “If that salt was stored in and spread by a facility honored with a Safe and Sustainable Snowfighting Award, motorists have the added assurance of knowing the utmost care has been taken to protect public safety and the environment.”
Only 85 local agencies in the U.S. and Canada received this recognition.