BY ROBERT KNIGHT
The Orangetown Highway Department has won the prestigious National Safe and Sustainable Snow Fighting award for the 23rd consecutive year.
The award is presented annually by the National Salt Institute for “excellence in environmental consciousness and effective management in the storage of winter road salt.
According to Orangetown Highway Superintendent James Dean, clear winter roads protect lives and commerce. Every winter, more than 116,000 Americans are injured and over 1,300 killed as a result of pavement that is snow, slush or ice covered, based on federal statistics.
However, a study of highways in “snow belt” states showed that road salt reduces crashes by 88 percent.
When the direct and indirect impact of road shutdowns on the broader economy is factored in, Dean says road salt becomes even more valuable. A one-day major snowstorm can cost a state $300 to $700 million in direct and indirect costs, lost commerce and productivity. In fact, he adds, deicing pays for itself within the first 25 minutes after the salt is spread – making proper salt storage and timely deicing a smart investment.
Dean said he is gratified that the Salt Institute has honored his department for the past 23 years for its road clearing and salt use practices. “To have this department’s ongoing efforts to protect the safety of our residents while providing sustainable and environmentally conscious snow and ice control recognized at this level is a proud achievement, and I want to thank all of our hard working and dedicated highway department members for their continued commitment to excellence.”
Salt Institute President Lori Roman noted in presenting the award to Orangetown that “each winter snow fighters take incredible risks on icy roads, working long shifts to clear our roads of snow and ice and make them safe.
“They prioritize both public safety and the environment by effective practices that utilize just the right amount of salt at the right place and at the right time,” she added, explaining that the national award “represents the highest acclaim for public safety and the environment. Recipients must meet or exceed nearly 70 different criteria covering storage, equipment, safety, environmental protection and service.”
Roman said about 26 million tons of deicing salt was applied to roadways in the U.S. last year alone, according to statistics provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, and another six million tons are spread in Canada.
“Having enough road salt on hand before storms hit requires advance planning and facilities that provide safe and efficient storage,” she added. Winners of the award must also display proper maintenance and good housekeeping practices.
Only a handful of local agencies in the U.S. and Canada received this recognition, she noted, and Orangetown should be proud of achievement.
The Orangetown Highway Department is one of the largest such agencies in Rockland. It maintains all town roads in Pearl River, Orangeburg, Blauvelt, Tappan, Sparkill, Palisades and Upper Grandview and under contract with Rockland County and New York State also provides salting and plowing to county and state roads within Orangetown.
The highway department operates out of a large facility off Route 303 in Orangeburg, on land that had been part of the former Route 303 Drive-In Theater, and before that part of an Army Nike Missile base.