Slag used on roads brings a blizzard of complaints

March 16, 1994|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Sun Staff Writer

Just when Baltimore County highway officials thought they were safe from the nightmare of ice, snow, freezing rain and complaints about unplowed streets, along comes the slag menace -- 40,000 tons of it.

Residents have been complaining about the gritty, dusty cinders dumped on their roads to give drivers traction on ice, and officials now say highway crews will pick up the mess they left behind.

The slag dust has been a nuisance for car owners who finally got a chance to wash away the winter salt, and a hazard for youngsters on in-line skates.

County work crews used the slag this winter when they ran low on salt or it was too cold for salt to work. Slag is the ash that comes from coke ovens -- in this case the Bethlehem Steel plant in Sparrows Point.

"As soon as I get the word that there will be no more winter storms, we will begin sweeping streets to remove the slag," said Charles K. Weiss, chief of the Bureau of Solid Waste Management.

The county will use its seven street sweepers plus private contractors to sweep up the slag, but only on roads that have curbs, Mr. Weiss said.

"The method of street sweeping we use utilizes the curbs to help sweep up the dust," he said. "If the street sweepers are used on roadways that have no curbs, it just swirls the dust around the road".

The county has 2,100 miles of curbed roadway, but since the sweepers have to work both sides of the street, they'll eventually log 4,200 slag miles, he said.

Since most of the slag has been swept by moving cars toward the curbs, Mr. Weiss said the county will post notices on streets to be cleaned so that residents can move their cars -- at least in areas where off-street parking is available.

Mr. Weiss said he couldn't estimates how much the cleanup will cost or how long it will take.

"We plan to recycle much of the slag to save the county as much money as possible," said Mr. Weiss. "The slag will either be stored for use next winter or used to supplement our need for crushed stone."

According to C. Richard Moore, county highways chief, the county paid $240,000 for the slag itself and an additional $200,000 to ship it to highway maintenance yards.

Mr. Moore said his department has received many complaints from residents about the dust raised by cars traveling over the gritty residue.

"Salt will dissolve , but the slag just lies there," said Mr. Moore.

Jeremy Kaufman, 11, can attest to that. Ten days ago, he was using his in-line skates in front of his home on Strawhill Court in Owings Mills. His wheels hit some loose slag, out went the skates from under him and down went Jeremy. He fractured his left arm below the elbow.

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