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Douglas County Public Works Receives Award for Reduced Salt Use

Posted: 12/02/2019

Category: County Board, Departments, Public Works

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Douglas County winters come with a guarantee. At some point there will be snow. At some point there will be ice. At some point we must drive on it. Thankfully we have Douglas County Public Works and a staff dedicated to keeping 550 miles of roadway in the best driving condition possible while significantly reducing the amount of salt on those roadways.

In fact, their good work won an Environmental Leadership Award this year from the Freshwater Society.  The award reads, “In recognition of exemplary work and innovative solutions to reduce impacts of winter maintenance on our freshwater. Congratulations to Maintenance Superintendent Steve Johansen and his staff for a job well done.

“We know residents are very concerned about the use of salt on our roads,” said Douglas County Public Works Director Dave Robley. “I’m proud of my staff for continuing to provide the safest winter driving possible, while also reducing salt.”

Johansen has been with the county for two years. Prior to his arrival, the county was using a drip system on the sander plates which helps keep the salt/sand mixture on the road. Johansen then had all the sanders calibrated. He installed the latest sanding controllers and GPS in the new trucks which also have ground speed controllers installed to keep the application rates efficient but not extreme.

To get to an even higher level of salt reduction, the county bought a brine making system and set up its water truck and water tank trailer with a brine application spray bar for anti-icing. Johansen also added brine application systems in three pickups for pre-treating in the outer parts of the county.

As with any new initiative, educating the operators is key to success. As their supervisor, Johansen made his expectation of reduced salt use clear. He found the operators were more than willing to join the effort, which is also a priority of county commissioners.

In 2019, staff used 30 percent less salt with few complaints from the residents. The winter of 2020 should see an even higher reduction of salt use. Johansen says he may even try a beet juice product that improves the odds of melting ice at lower temperatures.  

Finally, please remember, the county does not have a bare pavement policy. Crews will clear most of the snow as quickly as they can, but motorists must adjust their driving based on conditions. 

 

 

 

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