Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus announced today that more than half of the Dutchess County Department of Public Work’s snowplow fleet will be equipped with new automated salt spreaders before the end of this winter.
According to County Executive Steinhaus, “Since we have experienced the first measurable snowfall of the season and I have shared many of the County’s green initiatives in my 2007 State of the County address, I wanted to update the public on the County’s efforts to retrofit our county fleet with automated salt spreader controllers. These new spreaders will not only provide the County savings in reduced salt costs, but also help protect our environment by allowing our crews to put down only the necessary amount of salt.”
Road salts can be harmful to the environment when applied excessively. Road salt can be destructive to vegetation growth along roadsides, which negatively impacts animal habitats in the area. As snow and ice melts, deicing salts are carried into the soils along roadsides and eventually into surface and groundwater. According to Peter Groffman of the Institute of Ecosystem Studies, “Road salt is very tough on aquatic life. It alters the biological makeup of freshwater and alters stream purification processes. Road salt can also have a negative impact on drinking water by increasing sodium and chloride concentrations in groundwater and surface water reservoirs. It is important that steps are taken to significantly reduce the amount of road salt being used.”
Seven of the County’s fleet of 32 snowplows have already been equipped with the new automated salt spreader controllers, with another 10 vehicles to be retrofitted before the end of this winter season. The conversion of the fleet to automated controllers is the County’s latest improvement for winter safety and roadway snow clearance. These automated controllers allow county highway crews to calibrate how much salt per mile of road needs to be put down for a particular weather event and then adjust the speed of the spreader based on the speed of the snowplow.
To achieve maximum effectiveness from the salt spreaders, Dutchess County’s Highway Division has been training its drivers on proper application techniques including calibration settings and drive speed as it relates to the speed of the spreader. The automated spreader controllers can be set to apply a certain number of pounds per mile of material. The application rate can be varied based on the nature and surface temperatures of each particular storm.
Before the County began its modernization process, it was estimated the fleet was using approximately 1400 lbs of salt/sand per mile. Average application rate is now 800 lbs per mile with the same resulting level of safety for the traveling public. The automated spreader controllers allow the Highway Division to track usage by vehicle, improve record keeping and the ability to analyze the effectiveness of operations. Additionally, there is still the ability to increase application rates for severe storms. The County Executive concluded, “We have already saved 1500 lbs of salt. Once all the spreaders are installed, the County will save more than 5,000 tons of salt each year which translates to savings of $250,000 annually, based on today’s salt prices. These new spreaders are a great example of how we are always working to reduce costs while continuing to think greener to protect our environment.”