No mag chloride? No problem, says Aspen Streets Department | AspenTimes.com

No mag chloride? No problem, says Aspen Streets Department

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The head of the Aspen Streets Department said he is relieved after being ordered to stick to plowing and sanding city streets this winter.

Earlier this month, the Aspen City Council ordered the Streets Department to refrain from using any chemical de-icers for the rest of the winter. For Streets Department supervisor Jerry Nye, the decision just meant more of the same.

“We haven’t used [magnesium chloride] on our roads in town for four years, so this is nothing new to us. We’re just plowing and sanding,” he said. “But we’re not using NAAC [sodium acetate] de-icer now, and that’s helping us because we’re not wasting time and energy with throwing it out there and not having it work.”

Although mag chloride, a liquid de-icer, is used statewide by the Colorado Department of Transportation for its efficiency, local environmental officials argue the chemical kills roadside trees and poses health risks. The Aspen Streets Department experimented with the more environmentally friendly NAAC earlier this year.

Nye said since the experimental de-icer came in dry, pellet form, it typically hit the road and bounced off, or it “took forever” to burn into the ice. It would also get diluted with the melting snow.

“Nothing has changed, except we’re not using the NAAC de-icer anymore, which wasn’t performing the way it should have been,” Nye said. “So it’s actually a relief to us, because it’s one step we don’t have to do now.”

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As for the sand placed on the road, he said the three-eighths-inch rock chip doesn’t get crushed down by car tires as quickly as sandstone. That reduces the amount that may get ground into a fine dust and become a brown cloud over Aspen in the spring, known as the pollutant PM-10. He added that his department also puts a substantial amount of time into sweeping up the rock chips during the melt after each snowfall.

Nye does use mag chloride to clean the inside of the Streets Department sweeper, an amount that was approved by the City Council. He said the chemical keeps the inside of the machine from freezing, so he can sweep up the most rock chip possible.