Breckenridge to continue using mag chloride for now |

Breckenridge to continue using mag chloride for now

BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge Town Council members decided last week to continue using magnesium chloride on some of the town’s roads after discussing the pros and cons of the de-icer with town road and bridge officials.

Magnesium chloride was first used as a road de-icer in Summit County in 1995. It replaced a sand-and-salt mixture that was found to clog streams and contributed to air pollution.

Drivers soon began complaining about the sticky mag chloride on windshields – a complaint rarely heard anymore. Now, they’re complaining about corroded car parts, including brakes, universal joints, exhaust systems and tires. Other problems that might be exacerbated by using the chemical on roads include deteriorating expansion joints in bridges, corroded underground infrastructure and erosion of roadways.

CDOT discontinued using mag chloride on Highway 9 from Frisco to Breckenridge after public outcry over the death of two local teens on an icy stretch south of Farmer’s Korner. There was a perception that the chemical contributed to the accident. Silverthorne, the county and Frisco have since followed suit. The county uses the chemical for dust control on dirt roads in the summer.

Breckenridge public works officials, however, say the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

“It’s hard to argue mag chloride doesn’t have some kind of effect on vehicles,” said assistant public works director Dan Bell. “We certainly see it on the distribution vehicle, and wiring is sensitive to corrosion. But the benefits are good.”

The town of Breckenridge has gone from spending $60,000 a year on magnesium chloride in 1998 to spending $10,000 today. Much of that is used for dust control on dirt roads, and the number of dirt roads has decreased in that time. Also, road officials have learned how to use the product more judiciously, Bell said. Public Works Director Terry Perkins said the town uses about 30 gallons per lane mile. CDOT officials say they use about 45 gallons per lane mile on Interstate 70.

Mayor Sam Mamula said he is concerned about the stories he’s heard about people getting sick with upper respiratory problems, although no studies have conclusively linked the use of magnesium chloride to any illnesses.

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