Northern Michigan road commissions say they’ve been caught off guard after learning about state restrictions on the use of brine.
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) says restrictions were first put in place back in 2015, but local road commissions say they just found out about the change.
“It’s been just a couple of weeks ago they sent out a notice on Thursday evening about a webinar they were going to have Friday at 5 p.m. and that’s the first we heard about it,” Director of the Mason County Road Commission, Mary Samuels, states.
She says she’s surprised to find out about the restrictions nearly 10 years after they were put in place. EGLE’s Public Information Officer, Jeff Johnston says they could’ve done a better job communicating with road commissions.
“We’re trying to be understanding of the fact that people were not made aware of it at the time. We’re on a learning curve now,” Johnston acknowledges.
Brine is used on gravel roads to reduce the amount of dust that gets in the air. It’s also used on icy roads when the temperature is below 14 degrees. While EGLE isn’t restricting it’s use on icy roads they are restricting the use of brine from mineral wells on gravel roads and near waterways.
“It’s to protect that water from getting saltier and harming plant life and animal life that’s in the waterways,” Johnston admits.
Local road commissions say they are frustrated because they were first told to use brine on gravel roads to reduce pollution, and are now being told to reduce the use of brine for the same reason. EGLE says they’re ‘aiming for a balancing act.’
“Dust in the air is a pollutant, it’s an air quality issue. So, we want to keep that down, but we also want to protect the surface water. We don’t want to do one or the other, we want to do both,” Johnston explains.
The Mason County Road Commission currently uses around 2.5 million gallons of brine every year and says the restrictions could greatly impact the community.
“It’s not going to be good, we’re going to have people calling all the time. No one is going to be happy about this,” Samuels admits.
She says the restrictions mean more work will be needed on gravel roads, and not reducing dust could impact people’s health, especially those with asthma.
“It’s going to be a big deal if they change that amount that we can apply,” Samuels says.