Caltrans will stop slushing
If you didn’t like the California Department of Transportation’s slushing-out, snow-removal technique used during the winter, you’re not alone – and you won’t have to worry about it next year.
The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board has issued a notice of violation to Caltrans for its slushing out, stating that the action hurts the water quality of Lake Tahoe.
“They have an opportunity to come back and say what they intend to do. If it’s inadequate, we can conceivably raise it to a higher level of enforcement,” said Alan Miller, water resources control engineer of Lahontan. “A notice of violation is kind of a starting point, saying we were not happy with what happened last winter.”
Dale Ten Broeck, Caltrans’ district division chief for maintenance, said he wants to follow Lahontan’s advice.
“We won’t be slushing the snow in the future. It’s a lot cheaper that way, but let’s face it: We have to do our share to help protect the lake,” he said. “I estimate it could cost as much as half a million dollars to remove snow in the Tahoe Basin because of not slushing. But my feeling is Caltrans is going to have to step up to the plate. I don’t have the extra resources to cover that, but I’ll find them.”
When Caltrans slushes out, according to Lahontan, workers add significant amounts of road salt to the snow. The layers of snow and sand are plowed into the center lane. Then, when the weather warms up, Caltrans crews spread the snow over the road so it melts quickly.
The quickly melting snow creates a “rapid onrush of snowmelt” that overwhelms stormwater treatment traps. They are unable to treat all of the runoff.
Unacceptable amounts of sand, nitrogen, phosphorous, oil and grease are being discharged as a result of the snow-removal techniques, according to Lahontan.
Ten Broeck said he had not known the runoff exceeded Lahontan’s requirements.
Besides stopping the slushing practice, changes Lahontan is encouraging include reducing the amount of salt and sand used, hauling the snow away or sweeping up more of the sand from the roads between storms.
“In the cases where they get back-to-back storms and they can’t haul it away, maybe that’s a reasonable reason (to slush out). But we don’t want them to do it every time it snows,” Miller said. “That’s not a best management practice.”
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