Breck backs off on mag chloride |

Breck backs off on mag chloride

BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge Town Council members agreed to temporarily halt the use of magnesium chloride on its roads, leaving Dillon as the only town that uses the popular de-icer.

Silverthorne stopped using it about three years ago, and Frisco officials just opted out last month. County commissioners have been urging town officials to discontinue using the de-icer, citing corroded car parts and unknown long-term impacts. Only the Colorado Department of Transportation uses it, and then only along Interstate 70.

Assistant town public works director Dan Bell said he would continue researching other products to determine if there are other, more environmentally sensitive de-icers.

Breckenridge road maintenance crews will continue using mag chloride on two in-town dirt roads – County Road 460 near the Wellington Neighborhood in French Gulch and on the upper stretches of Ski Hill Road – in the summer to keep the dust down.

Uncertainties surrounding the chemical, including health and environmental impacts, were cited as reasons to back off using the de-icer.

“I’m hesitant because I don’t want someone 10 years from now coming back and saying, “This is like Agent Orange,'” said Mayor Sam Mamula. “We are environmental leaders in the county, and there is enough uncertainty that it is harmful.”

Yet, numerous studies indicate there are few environmental impacts to plants, trees, fish and other animals if maintenance crews dilute the chemical properly. Other studies show the de-icer, which was first used in Summit County in 1995, is far less corrosive than other products, particularly salt-based de-icers.

Yet, anecdotal stories abound of people getting ill after the product is sprayed on roads. Others say their blood contains dangerously high levels of heavy metals – including arsenic, lead and mercury – that are used as an anti-corrosive in the magnesium chloride mixture.

Councilmember Dave Hinton was the only one who said he wasn’t sure Breckenridge should discontinue the use of magnesium chloride – and for precisely the same reason: that studies are inconclusive.


In other news

Town engineers Eric Guth and Tom Daugherty outlined to the council scenarios that might be needed at various intersections along Park Avenue once CDOT relocates Highway 9 from Main Street to Park Avenue. CDOT officials asked town engineers to determine needs along the road, as it has numerous intersections and driveways.

Council members have already discussed whether to build a bridge over the road or an underpass to get people safely from the north side of the street to the Village at Breckenridge where ski school is. They are also concerned about the scores of cars that double-park to drop off skiers and myriad buses that use a small turnout to unload passengers.

To improve the situation there – which Mamula called a “disorganized barn dance of people” – the town could erect fences to divert pedestrians into crosswalks and build a short-term parking area at the south end of F-Lot where skiers can be dropped off.

Council members also debated if the problem belonged to them – or if Breckenridge Ski Resort should be responsible for providing a safe drop-off area for their customers.

“The ski area says, “Bring kids to our ski school, but don’t use our parking (at the Village of Breckenridge) to drop them off,'” Mamula said. “We’re trying to find a solution to their problem. I don’t think temporary parking is the solution for having a ski school in the wrong place.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or

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