Commissioners discuss salting, sanding again

Braun tours CR 27 with highway foreman

NEW ULM — For the second straight week Tuesday, Brown County Commissioners discussed the advantages of salting and/or sanding county roads after winter snowfall.

On Jan. 17, most Brown County commissioners supported the county highway department continuing with a 25 percent salt/75 percent sand mixture on hills, intersections and curves.

New District 4 Commissioner Brian Braun supported increasing salt content in order to get roads to bare pavement sooner.

Brown County Highway Engineer Wayne Stevens said the highway department could try a 50-50 salt/sand mix if commissioners favored it, but that it would be more costly.

Commissioners Tony Berg, Jeff Veerkamp and Scott Windschitl said they supported keeping the 25-75 mixture that was working well. Berg said he was impressed with CR 29, which he often travels.

Brown County Assistant Highway Engineer Andrew Lang said the county pre-treats concrete county highways before snow falls and uses more salt on them.

This week, Braun told the board County Road 27 runs down the middle of his district and is often used by Sleepy Eye area drivers as a route to TH 68 and Mankato, using county highways 11 and 25 especially during the Highway 14 construction closure.

“I tried to educate myself on snow and ice removal,” said Braun. “If we doubled the amount of salt we use on county roads, we could actually use salt more efficiently and eliminate using sand, which doesn’t melt snow and ice and clogs pipes and drains and negatively affect organisms and streams. I think we should avoid using sand as much as possible.”

Braun said he didn’t prefer a 50-50 mix of sand and salt because each one reduces the effectiveness of the other.

“They’re using straight salt on CR 13 and CR 29 (concrete roads),” he added.

Commissioner Braun toured County Road 27 with Brown County Highway Dept. Foreman Fred Gareis.

“We’ve had discussions about this already. We’d go through hundreds of thousands of dollars if we used all salt,” said Veerkamp.

Commissioner Dave Borchert said he’d like to discuss the subject with Brown County Highway Engineer Wayne Stevens.

“I think public safety trumps everything, but we want to do due diligence and not have a knee-jerk reaction when someone complains,” said Borchert.

Braun mentioned a Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) pamphlet on using road salt. He offered to forward it to several commissioners who wanted to see it.

“One pound of salt will melt 46 pounds of ice,” said Commissioner Braun.

Commissioner Veerkamp said road salt catches snow when the wind blows, which is much of the time.

“We had that issue one day last week. The roads were plowed one day. The next they were glare ice with wind blowing and cars in the ditch,” Commissioner Veerkamp said.

“When we drive on the snowpack, there’s going to be snow and ice. It’ll take time for it to be worked off,” said Commmissioner Windschitl.

Commissioner Braun said whatever is put on roads will affect the environment.

According to the MnDOT, road salt is not effective at temperatures below 15 degrees F. If salt washes off the road, it can harm water, vegetation, and wildlife. Pre-treating roads with salt helps keep it on the road.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) reports salt, which contains chloride, a water pollutant. Just one teaspoon of road salt can permanently pollute five gallons of water. At high concentrations, chloride can harm fish and plant life.


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