Safety First With Ice Removal

Nicole Battista, Reporter

That white stuff everyone is tracking indoors on shoes and boots isn’t residue from rock salt – it’s calcium flakes and students are complaining about the mess while officials say it’s safer than the material it replaced.

Third year pre-DPT students Alexa Plevyak and Julianne Munda said the flakes are making a mess on carpets and floors.

“It got on my shoes and got in my rug,” Munda said. “It ruined my rug.”

Plevyak said the calcium stuck to her shoes.

“I had to pick it off with a pencil because it was like six inches thick on the bot- tom of my shoe. It is disgusting,” she said.

Groundskeepers remove ice with a combination of materials- rock salt on parking lots and roadways and calcium on sidewalks.

These are the “most effective and most efficient cost-wise” to use, according to Laurie Finnegan, Grounds Manager, who said it’s the calcium that gets tracked into buildings.

“Grounds does not intentionally make a mess with the calcium,” Finnegan said, “and our priority is to keep the walkways safe for all students, staff, faculty and visitors.”

Munda said she notices the anti-slip material most when the surfaces are clear. “Where is the salt when we need it?” she asked.

Finnegan said calcium is only used during a significant weather event -not a light dusting of snow.

“We only put it down when we slide.”

Finnegan asks that people consider the weather when getting dressed and wear proper footwear.

“It is Northeastern Pennsylva- nia. It is going to snow. There are going to be ice some days. We do the best that we can do,” Finnegan said.

Calcium is used as spot treatment on wet ground or when the temperature drops below freezing. Finnegan said workers want to avoid laying “a huge line” of salt on surfaces.

Pretreating sidewalks with a mixture of calcium and water in the form of a brine is not an option, she said, because brine is distributed by a spray tank, which the university does not have.

“All steps have to be salted as soon as they are shoveled, and if the snow is falling slow enough we keep up. That way it is kind of like a pre-treat,” Finnegan said.

Calcium is distributed by a machine called a Gator, and wherever the Gator cannot go workers use shovels to put down the calcium by hand.

Munda said a pellet-like product called UREA was used before the university replaced it with calcium.

Finnegan said UREA “would only melt in between certain temperatures, like if it was only 28 degrees outside, the product would not work.”

In addition, UREA pellets would clump together and passersby would slide on the product.

As of now, the university is well stocked with anti-slip material. Between 30 to 40 tons of the salt remains in storage,. Staff has ordered 137 tons in comparison to roughly 200 ordered last year.

There are 36 buckets of calcium in the doorways.

Calcium flakes can damage concrete in concentrations and can also irritate wet skin, according to The New York Landmarks Conservancy website.

Grass damage is inevitable, Finnegan said, whether it is from the salt or the machine. She said calcium is safer than other products.

Rock salt, otherwise known as sodium chloride, releases a high amount of chloride when it dissolves, according to the New York Landmarks Conservancy website. It can damage metal and concrete.

It also could be extremely damaging if it were dumped accidentally in solid, large chunks into a body of water, Community Relations Coordinator Department of Environmental Protection of the Northeast Regional Office Colleen Connolly said.

”When local municipalities clear their roads of snow, they cannot dump that snow in creeks or streams because of the concen- tration levels of sodium chloride still in the rock salt,” Connolly said. “However, by that time the sodium chloride has been broken down and poses a minimal threat to streams or other bodies of water that may run near roads.”

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