State committee will consider complaints about mag chloride
February 25, 2002
Complaints about the Colorado Department of Transportation’s use of the de-icing agent magnesium chloride will be considered by a key advisory committee, perhaps as soon as next month.
The State Transportation Advisory Committee will consider the issue at an upcoming meeting after Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland showed up with a petition signed by over 1,200 people that urges CDOT to quit using the liquid-salt mixture.
Ireland said that he understands the need for mag chloride or something similar along dangerous stretches of state highways after heavy snows. But he questioned CDOT’s liberal, even “indiscriminate” use of the de-icer along Highway 82.
Ireland declined to predict whether the transportation advisory committee will make a formal recommendation to the Colorado Transportation Commission on CDOT’s policy for applying mag chloride.
The transportation advisory committee is made up of representatives from different regions of the state. It is an advisory body to the Transportation Commission, which oversees CDOT.
Magnesium chloride is a form of salt mined out of Great Salt Lake in Utah. It is combined with other chemicals and water to create a liquid that is applied to roads before, during and after snowstorms. CDOT has been spreading millions of gallons of mag chloride on state roads for about seven years.
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Motorists often complain that it reduces visibility and leaves a grimy, sticky residue on cars. Trees and other plants along roadways where magnesium chloride is applied have started to die in the past few years, according to local environmental officials, who suspect heavy doses of the de-icer is the likely cause.
Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt and a handful of other communities around the state have discontinued the use of magnesium chloride, opting for more traditional methods of snow removal.
The petition was circulated last spring by Aspen resident Judy Pearce, who is convinced that the de-icer is bad for the environment and people’s health, and does little to make the roads any safer. The signatures were gathered at local stores and gas stations in just over a month.
“This is what I wanted to happen,” Pearce said of the upcoming transportation advisory committee meeting.
Pearce sent copies of the petition to all five members of the Aspen City Council earlier this month, before they considered a proposal by the streets department to reintroduce the use of mag chloride in town. The City Council decided against the de-icer, although it said it would reconsider the decision at a later date.
Pearce and Councilman Terry Paulson then took the petition to the county commissioners to see if they would take their concerns to the next level.
Ireland took the signatures to the advisory committee’s meeting in Denver last Wednesday, and the committee agreed to take up the topic at the March or April meeting.