As wintry weather returned to the Grundy County area last weekend, so did the work of the crews behind the snowplows. Clearing and salting the roadways usually fall under local governments’ tasks.
Officials with Grundy County and the villages of Minooka and Coal City took time to weigh in on salt and its usage.
In Minooka, Superintendent of Public Works Ryan Anderson said it’s a balancing act to manage the needs of the residents with those of the environment.
On average, the village puts 1,000 tons of salt to use. Anderson said they have used 1,200 tons of salt and counting.
“I think our salt usage has been increased [based] on the opinions of the residents,” he said. “However, I think it’s important to keep in mind the environment. Residents are demanding more and more every year, and it’s having more of an impact on the environment.”
Anderson said natural bodies of water can be affected, including the DuPage River, nearby streams, fish populations and other organisms.
“We’re trying to create awareness to people that apply salt to use more conservative techniques that would be most efficient, like adding brine as we’re doing,” he said. “It allows the salt to activate quicker.”
Minooka is part of a coalition of entities working to address DuPage River concerns.
“We monitor the river for fluoride and sodium levels, and despite December, that level does not start to come down until August or September the following year,” Anderson said.
Anderson urged other municipalities to exercise more caution when using salt to help dissuade the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency from introducing new regulations.
“I’m worried they will,” he said.
Darren Olson, public works superintendent for Coal City, said government agencies want to continue to keep costs down, as employees use more and more salt.
“Salt is not cheap,” he said.
Olson said the weather has kept the crew busy in January and through the first half of February.
“There’s been longer hours because of the ice storms,” he said.
In November, Coal City used about 30 tons of salt. The next month, there was no salt used. Since January, the village has used more than 400 tons of salt.
Eric Gibson, engineer for Grundy County, agreed that the crews have been busy putting down salt this season.
“We’ve got into our reserves for next year with the amount of salt that we’ve put down,” he said.