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Clarion PennDOT crews recognized for effective, green management of salt stockpiles

Patrick Varine
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Brian C. Rittmeyer | Tribune-Review
Above, a store of road salt in Harrison on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. PennDOT crews in District 10 (Clarion County) have been recognized by the Salt Institute in Florida for effective, environmentally-conscious management of their road salt stockpiles.

A PennDOT District staff in Western Pennsylvania has been recognized for its efforts to effectively manage winter road salt storage and to be environmentally conscious about its application.

Crews from PennDOT’s District 10 in Clarion County received five of 55 “Safe and Sustainable Snowfighting” awards from the Florida-based Salt Institute.

District 10 county maintenance manager Josh Clinger spoke with the Trib just as the region was starting to warm up following the subzero temperatures that ushered in the month of February.

“The last 24 hours have been pretty intense,” Clinger said. “We’re just out there proactively trying to take care of issues whenever they occur.”

When the direct and indirect impact of road shutdowns on the broader economy is factored in, road salt becomes even more valuable, Salt Institute officials said. According to the American Highway Users Alliance a one-day major snowstorm can cost a state up to $300-$700 million in direct and indirect costs, lost commerce and productivity.

“We take winter operations very seriously and want to provide the public with a level of service that allows them to get around safely,” Clinger said. “This is a great opportunity for us to display it.”

Officials from the institute conducted a field visit at the Clarion County PennDOT facilities a few years ago, Clinger said, and a representative took a tour in 2018, looking at where workers store salt and what type of environmental practices they put in place.

“We have measures in place to know how much we put down during an event,” he said. “There’s a lot involved in the application.”

In southwest Pennsyvlania, PennDOT District 12 crews operate in much the same way, according to spokeswoman Valerie Petersen.

“All Districts within Pennsylvania have an annual S.E.M.P (Strategic Environmental Management Process) audit performed by an external agency using the same environmental checklist parameters,” Petersen said. “Controlling material application reduces waste, increases efficiency, and protects the environment.”

All PennDOT trucks are equipped with calibrated automatic controllers and spreaders to provide the same application rate at any speed.

About 24 million tons of deicing salt is applied to roadways in the U.S. and last year according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

“Snowfighters across the country work long and difficult hours to protect both public safety and the environment, utilizing effective practices that apply the right amount of salt at the right place and at the right time,” said Salt Institute President Lori Roman. “The Safe and Sustainable Snowfighting Award represents the highest acclaim for public safety and the environment.”

In order to receive the award, recipients must meet or exceed nearly 70 criteria covering storage, equipment, safety, environmental protection and service.

District 10 received awards for its salt stockpiles along Interstate 80, in Callensburg, New Bethlehem and Tylersburg, as well as for its main facility.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.