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Eugene to try out chemical de-icers.

Byline: Joe Mosley The Register-Guard

It wasn't the slippery political slope it might have been, as Eugene city councilors voted with little debate Monday to allow street crews to use chemicals for a 15-month trial period to keep some bridges, hills and intersections clear of ice and snow.

Councilors were asked by the city's Public Works Department staff to amend a 1991 resolution prohibiting the use of chemical de-icers, but balked at permanently lifting the ban until it can be determined if the practice is environmentally safe and cost-effective.

"I'm willing to trust this is a good idea and we ought to be more proactive," Councilor Scott Meisner said. "But we're being asked to make a flying leap of faith."

Jeff Lankston, head of the city's snow and ice removal team, told the council that chemicals such as calcium magnesium acetate effectively prevent ice and snow from forming or bonding to road surfaces - potentially creating safer roadways while sparing city crews the arduous task of applying and later removing sand from icy streets.

"The last couple weeks we've put over 400 (cubic) yards of sand on the streets, and we currently have sweepers out picking that up," he said, pointing out that widespread use of sand can cause a rise in airborne particulates as well as sedimentation in local waterways.

"Our current program is reactive," Lankston said. "Basically, we start plowing after the snow starts falling."

He said chemical de-icers are routinely used in several Western states, and are among the tools used locally by maintenance crews for both Lane County and the Oregon Department of Transportation - which has conducted a study of the chemicals' environmental effects.

That led Councilor David Kelly to chide Lankston for his choice of environmental models.

"I must say, I get a little nervous when you cite ODOT as an environmental authority," Kelly said. "I would feel much more comfortable if the Department of Environmental Quality had made these findings."

In the end, the council voted 7-1 to allow the use of chemical de-icers, after Councilor Bonny Bettman suggested a trial period that will include the city's own study of environmental effects and cost effectiveness.

Councilor Betty Taylor cast the only vote against the motion, saying her colleagues were moving too fast.

"I'm not ready to support something this quickly, and without the public having an opportunity to say anything," Taylor said. "I would like to have more time, and I would like to have a public hearing."

The change took effect immediately, and will remain on the books until April 1, 2005. The old prohibition against chemical de-icers will then resume, unless the council takes further action to allow them.

Street maintenance officials intend to rent equipment to apply the chemicals during the trial period.
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Title Annotation:Government; The City Council decides to try the method of clearing streets during snowy and freezing weather for 15 months
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 13, 2004
Previous Article:Special session unlikely if Measure 30 defeated.
Next Article:CALENDAR.

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