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Montgomery County Executive Elrich Announces More Sustainable Salt Management Practices at County’s ‘Snow Summit’ Event to Address Winter Storm Preparedness

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich today announced that the County’s Department of Transportation (MCDOT) would be using new environmental controls to ensure that snow removal operations are more sustainable. County Executive Elrich discussed the new approach during the County’s annual “Snow Summit” at which preparations for the 2019-20 winter storm season were reviewed and equipment was rolled out by MCDOT’s Highway Services Division.

The Snow Summit this year was held at the MCDOT Gaithersburg Depot. Among those joining County Executive Elrich were MCDOT Director Chris Conklin, Highway Services Division Chief Richard Dorsey and representatives of Montgomery Parks, which also has snow removal responsibilities on its properties. Among the innovations they talked about were MCDOT’s experimentation using rubber-tipped blades on snow plows. Metal-tipped blades damage the roadway if they are used before there is three inches of snow on the ground. Rubber-tipped blades may allow trucks to begin plowing sooner, without using salt.

One of the challenges MCDOT faces during snow storms is finding the right balance for use of salt—applying enough to make roads safe and protect the lives of travelers while also minimizing water quality and other environmental impacts. To further reduce salt usage, MCDOT is making the following changes:

Contracts with snow plow operators have been modified to increase salt application compliance and include responsibility for post-storm cleanup of salt spillage.
All equipment of subcontractors will be calibrated and inspected by MCDOT to prevent unnecessary salt application or overuse of salt.
MCDOT staff will inspect all routes after storm events to identify and remove excess salt.

“Over the years, I have been impressed with MCDOT’s ability to get the job done when it comes to snow removal and I know that MCDOT is as prepared as possible to be able to handle whatever Mother Nature may throw at us,” said County Executive Elrich. “Every year, MCDOT takes a hard look at its snow removal operations to find ways to make improvements – and this year is no exception. I appreciate the work of the department to incorporate new environmental controls—both before and after storms—to make our operations more environmentally sustainable.”

MCDOT is continuing efforts to reduce salt usage. Following the success of a pilot project on the use of salt brine, MCDOT doubled its use of brine last year on more road types. Salt brine is a mix of 80 percent water and only 20 percent salt. The use of it before a storm can significantly reduce the amount of salt required to treat roads after a storm.

 “I am confident that the improvements MCDOT is making this season to better manage salt application will reduce impacts on the environment,” said MCDOT Director Conklin. “Salt management is just one part of effective and efficient snow removal that is absolutely essential to our County’s economy and the safety of our residents and businesses. We would not be able to provide this service without the dedication and commitment of the staff and contractors who work during winter weather events. When it snows, our snow plow operators, mechanics and engineers work round-the-clock shifts until the roads are cleared.”

MCDOT has seven regional depots that are responsible for clearing snow along 220 different plow routes on more than 5,200 lane miles of County roads. MCDOT has 175 pieces of equipment and 200 staff dedicated to snow removal, with the ability to bring in hundreds of contractors and pieces of equipment, depending on a storm’s severity.

The Maryland State Highway Administration is responsible for clearing State roads in the County. Those roads are identified by designated numbers (not names).

Real time information on snow plowing status and information on which government entity is responsible to plow specific streets can be found on the Winter Storm Information Portal at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/snow/.

“MCDOT knows the importance to the public of getting snow removal right—and the importance of maintaining our basic infrastructure and keeping our roads and neighborhoods in great shape,” said Division Chief Dorsey. “And it all starts with a motivated and dedicated staff. MCDOT is a great place to work and an organization that encourages and supports its employees. And, I am a prime example: I started with the County about 30 years ago as an equipment operator.”

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Release ID: 19-375
Media Contact: Hannah Henn, 240-777-8389