Web Exclusive: Snow conscious

May 24, 2017

City in Missouri works to protect environment during winter maintenance operations

The city of Columbia, Mo., is considered to be a full-service city, which means providing the basic city services of police, fire, street maintenance, health and parks & recreation. Other services such as water, electric, sewer, solid waste, airport and transit are provided as well. The city of Columbia encompasses 65.51 sq miles and is located along I-70 between Kansas City and St. Louis. Recent population data from the 2010 census shows that 108,500 people call Columbia their home. The city’s network of streets includes over 1,360 lane miles of roadways. The Street Division provides maintenance on 1,358 lane miles of paved streets and 4.5 lane miles of gravel roads.

The city of Columbia and their Public Works Department try to remain conscious of the environment, implementing several practices to reduce environmental impact from winter weather operations. Columbia’s salt storage facility was designed in a way to provide safe storage and containment of materials and reduce impacts from storm-water runoff. The salt dome safely houses 5,000 tons of granular salt in an enclosed, locked storage facility. Additional structures on site store and protect other materials such as manufactured sand, liquid calcium chloride, brine, beet juice and related brine-making equipment. The green space surrounding the salt storage facility was landscaped, and a detention basin was constructed which collects storm-water runoff from the lot. Saltwater grass was introduced to the landscape around the detention basin, providing habitat for birds and insects while enhancing the aesthetic appearance of the facility.

Columbia’s snow fight fleet includes compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles as an alternative fuel source. Most of the fleet is equipped with ground speed control, which allows the driver to adjust the rate of salt applied within preset low and high parameters.

Automatic Vehicle Locators (AVLs) are installed in all fleet vehicles. The AVL allows crew leaders to monitor location and progress of each truck as they combat ice and snow. AVLs have enhanced the city’s ability to assist other first responders as it can easily be seen which vehicle is near a reported safety concern. Public works staff also can report on mileage and monitor driver speed and progress when trucks are treating residential areas.

The city of Columbia recognizes the importance of establishing communication between public works staff and residents prior to, during and the days after a storm event. The city has found that for them, the best way to insure that the most accurate and up-to-date information is released is to channel public communication through their Public Information Officer, whose responsibility is to provide updates through social media on the city’s Public Works Facebook page and Twitter accounts. 

The Public Works Department for the city of Columbia was honored to receive the American Public Works Association (APWA) 2017 Excellence is Snow and Ice Control Awards. This recognition was bestowed on the department to recognize their work in management and administration of public works snow and ice operations. 

About The Author: Thomas is street superintendent for the city of Columbia, Mo.

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