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County improves its snow and ice control program.

Rockland County is located on the west bank of the Hudson River 33 miles north of New York City. The county is a bedroom community with a population of approximately 276,000 people. Many families own more than one car because of a less than adequate public transportation system. Consequently, a large percentage of the population commutes by car to employment centers in Westchester County or New York City.

Snow and ice removal is a primary objective of the Rockland County Highway Department. The department's goal is to maintain the 323 lane miles of county roads in a travel safe condition at all times. After being appointed as county superintendent of highways in 1988, I committed myself to a "black pavement" policy. I evaluated the department's past practices, available snow fighting equipment, responsiveness to citizens complaints, monitoring and strategies related to snow and ice removal, and salt storage facilities. I developed a multi-year program to improve the department's response to snow/ice events and salt storage policies and procedures to protect the environment. Since my appointment, three salt storage buildings were constructed that have a total storage capacity of 5,000 tons of salt, an amount necessary to respond to an average winter season.

In addition to erecting proper salt storage facilities, and developing an environmental management policy, the department formulated clearly stated objectives and a comprehensive management policy designed to improve its effectiveness during snow storm conditions and to minimize roadway hazards. Efforts were made to modernize antiquated machinery, and adjust administrative policies. Such efforts were recognized in 1990 when the Rockland County Highway Department was awarded the National Association of Counties Award for Comprehensive Snow Removal Procedures.

Some of the highlights of the program include:

* The use of calcium chloride during very low temperatures to help melt snow and ice. Trucks were fitted with specially designed tanks to spray the calcium chloride on salt as it passed through the hopper.

* Spreader controls from DICKEY-john Corporation (Auburn, Illinois) were installed on all trucks to effectively and efficiently distribute salt. The devices are very effective in eliminating waste by automatically controlling and regulating the distribution of salt based on the speed of the truck.

* High intensity strobe lights were installed on all snow equipment to improve visibility of trucks and create a safer environment for the truck driver, motoring public, and pedestrians during inclement weather.

* Outdated equipment was replaced via a budget plan to purchase new snow removal trucks designed for both snow and ice removal and year-round multi-purpose use. All snow removal vehicles were equipped with a mobile radio to provide instant communication with drivers.

* Truck tires were converted to snow tires to eliminate the use of costly and troublesome snow chains.

* Supervisors were given beepers to enable management to quickly notify them of emergency conditions. The supervisors then mobilize the required manpower needed to respond to emergency conditions.

* Snow meetings consisting of a vertical slice of the organization, from superintendent to truck drivers, were instituted. After each snow storm, a meeting is held to discuss how the department responded to the storm, areas of difficulty, telephone complaints, inquiries, problems that developed, and solutions to mitigate problems for the next storm. These meetings resulted in many improvements in the department's snow removal operation.

The department also instituted administrative snow removal procedures.

* A 24-hour weather service agreement was negotiated with Weather Service Corporation (Bedford, Massachusetts) to provide thorough and comprehensive weather information to the department.

* A cooperative working arrangement was developed with various town highway departments within the county. County highway vehicles plowing in remote areas now obtain fuel and load salt at the nearest local highway yard (town or village). This procedure reduces the time required to travel back to the county highway facilities and provides additional time to plow and salt roads in remote areas. The local highway departments are reimbursed for materials they provide.

* A "stand-by" policy is maintained whenever there is a prediction for snow or ice conditions. This allows the department to have adequate manpower available to immediately respond to actual snowstorm occurrences. When on stand-by, and upon notification, employees are expected to report to work within 45 minutes. Employees are paid two hours for every eight hours on stand-by.

In 1988, 95 percent of the salt stored in the county was above ground and exposed to the elements. A small salt shed located in the hamlet of New City was enlarged to contain 425 tons of salt. In 1992 the first salt dome was erected in the town of Stony Point. During the severe winter of 1993/94, the department experienced a severe shortage of salt. Storage capacity was limited and salt vendors were unable to meet the county's needs, To address this problem, and in keeping with the overall plan, a 2,700-ton capacity salt dome was erected in the hamlet of Pomona. Both salt storage domes were supplied by Dome Corporation of America, Monclair, New Jersey.

In 1994, to protect the environment, the county developed policies and procedures concerning salt storage and loading and unloading of trucks. This policy was entered in the Salt Institute's (Alexandria, Virginia) 1995 Excellence's in Storage Award competition and the Rockland County Highway Department was declared a "top winner" by the institute.

The county's "good housekeeping" policy closely monitors each facility to make certain the salt storage does not exceed rated capacity of the facility, that salt spillage is kept to a minimum and that all personnel are properly trained in salt loading and spreading procedures. The policy is designed to provide a clean and safe environment. Weekly inspections are conducted by the road foreman. Findings and recommendations are forwarded to the general foremen for corrective action.

The objective of the department's environmental policy is to ensure that there is no intrusion of salt into the environment at the three salt storage locations. All salt is to be stored in the covered facilities that provide protection against leaching, runoff, and erosion in all weather conditions.

The following housekeeping policy was implemented for all salt storage areas.

Protection Measures

* A clean and safe environment is a primary objective of the department. Salt storage areas, loading ramps, loading pads and all adjacent areas must be kept free of spilled material. Any material not under cover has the potential to pollute the environment. Furthermore, piles of salt material left in loading areas can cause injury to individuals or damage to equipment.

* Salt stockpiles are to be closely monitored and not allowed to exceed rated capacity of domed storage facility.

* Salt deliveries are to be scheduled during dry weather periods whenever possible to reduce exposure to precipitation.

* No salt spillage is allowed to remain exposed to the elements. All salt spillage should be collected and immediately returned to a covered pile.

* Loading equipment is to receive periodic maintenance to ensure proper operation.

* All personnel are to attend an annual training seminar on proper salt loading, storage, and spreading procedures.

* All employees are to adhere to all written departmental safety procedures.

Dome Storage Loading

* During storage loading process, delivered material must be dumped in interior of salt domes.

* When unable to dump delivered materials inside salt domes, the materials must be deposited on an impervious asphalt pad.

* All materials placed at exterior of storage domes must be moved inside storage domes by end of daily operation.

Spreader Loading

* Position equipment to be loaded to avoid spillage.

* Do not overload buckets. Shake off excess at pile to avoid spillage.

* Avoid jerking the loader. Use slow, smooth approaches.

* Do not overload spreading equipment. All material must be contained within equipment body with a suitable crown on top to prevent spillage.

* Keep loading ramps and area clear of spilled material.

Completion of Loading Process

* Clean loading ramps and loading areas.

* Sweep loading ramps, loading pads, and all adjacent areas with a vacuum or mechanical sweeper. Areas unable to be swept by mechanical equipment must be hand swept and materials deposited in storage domes.

* All clean up procedures must be completed before the end of each shift or snow event.

Salt Storage and Loading Area Inspection

Weekly inspection of salt storage and loading area must be conducted by the road foreman or assistant general foreman. Findings and recommendations are to be forwarded to the general foreman, in writing, after inspection is completed. Inspect:

* To determine if there is any damage to concrete walls of the salt dome.

* To determine if there are any structural defects to the salt dome frame.

* Exterior grading to assure salt brine runoff will not enter drainage system or surrounding area.

* Interior and exterior lighting to determine if functioning properly.


Safety in and around the salt storage and loading area must be of paramount importance to all personnel. All personnel should use extra caution when entering the salt storage and loading area. Observe the following steps:

* Use dome interior and exterior lighting at all times.

* Keep vehicular windshields and windows clean.

* Make certain all warning devices are working properly.

* Do not move equipment until you are certain the area is clear.

* Keep loading area clean and level.

* Before dumping materials into the hopper, make certain that personnel on the exterior of the vehicle are in a safe position for loading.

* Do not overload the loader or spreaders.

* Do not drive with the bucket on front end loaders any higher than necessary for safe movement of the vehicle.

* Use safe operating speed.

* Keep alert at all times.

Good Housekeeping

In the interest of employee safety, visitor safety, and the overall operation of the department, a policy of good housekeeping must be adhered to by all personnel. Daily inspections of the salt storage area are to be conducted by assistant general foreman to determine that the program is followed.

* All employees are responsible for maintaining a clean work area.

* Return all tools to proper storage area.

* Remove and deposit any waste material in proper receptacles.

* Keep floors free of slippery substances. Use prescribed absorption materials as needed.

* Contain and report any spillage of hazardous materials to yard supervisor.

Immediately following a snow or ice event the following procedures must be implemented:

* All spreading equipment must be emptied inside a salt storage dome.

* All materials deposited outside the salt storage dome, must be cleaned up and placed under cover by end of daily operation.

* Unloading areas to be cleaned with vacuum or mechanical sweepers.

* Loaders and spreading equipment must be completely washed down with clean water. Use wash area only.

* Vehicle operators are to completely check all vehicle components after washing down equipment. Problems detected by operator must be reported to shop supervisor for appropriate repairs.

* Check spreader control adjustments and tie downs.

* Lubricate and adjust spreader plow, wing, and grease fittings.

* Check and lubricate and adjust spreader drive chains, gears and material control chute.

* Check all hydraulic fittings, connectors, and filters.

* Clean windshield and cab interiors.

* The foreman in charge of each yard is responsible for seeing that all areas and equipment are cleaned properly.

To ensure the future salt storage needs of Rockland County, plans are underway to construct a new highway facility with a salt dome in the hamlet of Nanuet.

The snow and ice removal program provides the residents of Rockland County with well-maintained roadways, minimized travel hazard conditions, quick response time to snow and ice conditions, immediate response to citizen complaints, immediate response to combating the effects of snow and ice on county roadways, higher employee morale, a safer operation for employees, and a more efficient and effective use of manpower and salt storage policy to protect the local environment.

Mr. Manuel da Cunha recently retired as Superintendent of Highways, Rockland County, New City, New York.
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Title Annotation:Rockland County, New York
Author:Cunha, Manuel Da
Publication:Public Works
Date:Apr 1, 1996
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