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Garrett County changing material applied to roads during winter

MDE claims department in violation of state code

Elaine Blaisdell Cumberland Times-News

OAKLAND — The Garrett County Roads Department is planning on using anti-skid only on the roads next year as opposed to a blend of anti-skid and bottom ash, announced General Roads Superintendent Jay Moyer during the county commission meeting Tuesday.

The decision was made because the Maryland Department of the Environment told the department it is in violation of state code and because of budget constraints, according to Moyer. Moyer requested a waiver from MDE for the violation and was denied it.

“My recommendation is we are going to go ahead this year … will use those piles down,” said Moyer, who noted that next year nothing will be added to the anti-skid piles except in those areas where salt is used.

Bottom ash is the result of coal combustion and is a byproduct, according to Moyer. The anti-skid blend is used to loosen up ice on the road surfaces so that the Roads Department can plow them.

In March, Mitchell Welsh of the Compliance Division of MDE, who specializes in the Solid Waste Program, visited the department and observed a violation in the way the bottom ash was stored at the four garages.

“This is a safety issue. That is what this boils down to,” said Moyer. “We have never had a violation. We have never been cited in the past. It’s never been an issue before with this being used as a product.”

Currently the department uses salt in a limited fashion only in areas that are heavily traveled by tourists such as New Germany, Lower New Germany, Glendale and Sand Flat roads.

“We have also signed a contract with (the) State Highway Adminstration recently that will allow us to buy up to $250,000 worth of salt per year for the next five years,” said Moyer. “But it’s expensive; it’s $68 a ton versus $6.75 a ton for bottom ash.”

MDE advised the county that it needs an industrial storm water permit at the sites where the anti-skid is stored.  

Moyer indicated in a letter to Edward Dexter, program administrator for the MDE Land Management Administration Solid Waste Program, that the Roads Department has sediment control ponds at each of the four garages. Moyer also indicated that the department had applied for the storm water permit.

The anti-skid has been stored at each of the garage sites for many years with little or no environmental impact on the surrounding areas, according to Moyer.

“The bottom ash is monitored by the (U.S.) EPA (Environmental Protection

Agency). It is tested and certified as having no significant impact on the environment,” said Moyer.

MDE is OK with the department using the bottom ash on the road but is worried about it blowing out from the stockpile into the atmosphere and washing away during rain events, according to Moyer.

“When we are done, we encapsulate those piles in pure anti-skid, which prevents any wind issues,” said Moyer.

Along with his request for a waiver from the MDE, Moyer attached a product analysis provided by Belmont Aggregates.

“… test results that you supplied indicated that the leachate to be expected from this material is likely to exceed the state and federal drinking water standards for antimony, and to exceed Maryland’s groundwater standards for antimony and iron,” wrote Dexter in re-sponse to Moyer’s request for a waiver. “At this time, there are no barriers to prevent the escape of chemicals leaching out of the piles into the surface and groundwater. Garrett County has not demonstrated how the existing storage system can meet the storage requirements.”

Monty Pagenhardt, county administrator, wrote a letter to Dexter expressing his disappointment over the fact that waiver request was denied. Pagenhardt indicated that because of the costs associated with fixing the violation that it “left the county in a position to redirect funds from other public services at a time when revenue from every source is being diminished.”

MDE recommended that the department construct buildings at the garage storage sites to cover the abrasive stockpile or to cover it with a tarp, according to Moyer. Building construction would cost about $200,000 for each site.

“With the current economic climate and impending close of the winter operation’s season upon us, it would be very expensive, cumbersome and offer little guarantee of obtaining the required results to try to cover the stockpile with tarps in order to try and achieve the required results,” wrote Moyer.

The county’s Department of Engineering has measured the stockpiles and determined that it would take a tarp the size of an acre to cover one bottom ash pile, according to Moyer.

“Their (MDE) answer back to that was just use smaller tarps,” said Moyer. “Well these are huge anti-skid piles.”

Moyer indicated that it would be dangerous and time-consuming for the road department employees to remove snow from the tarps in order to get to the anti-skid.

“To me that’s not an option; the tarps are out,” said Moyer.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

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