Public Works: Snow Removal
During the winter snowplowing season, the River Falls Public Works Department asks for the cooperation of residents to not allow forts, tunnels, etc. to be constructed along street boulevards/right-of-way. Snow plowing cleaning operations could cause the collapsing of such structures. Please do not deposit snow from private property, driveways and parking lots onto the street or other private property. Doing so may violate City Ordinance 8.04 (Snow and Ice Removal).
If you have any questions, please contact the River Falls Public Works Department at 425-0900.
The following is the City of River Falls snow and ice removal ordinance which is current as of January, 2005.
City of River Falls, Wisconsin, Municipal Code 12.04.030 Snow and ice removal.
- A. Sidewalks to be Kept Clear. The owner or occupant of any lot or parcel shall, within twenty-four (24) hours of cessation of each continuous period of snowfall, remove all snow and ice which may have fallen or accumulated upon the sidewalk in front of such lot or parcel, provided when ice or packed snow has so formed that it cannot be removed, the owner or occupant shall keep the same sprinkled with a nonskid material which will prevent the sidewalk from being dangerous to pedestrians. This requirement shall also apply to the main sidewalk as it extends from a corner lot to the curb line of an intersecting street. If the owner or occupant fails to comply with this subsection, the city shall cause the snow or ice to be removed or sprinkled as required in this subsect ion, the cost thereof to be charged to the owner of the property, who will be billed for such services within thirty (30) calendar days. The owner of the property shall pay all charges so billed within thirty (30) calendar days of the date of invoice. Failure to compensate the, city within thirty (30) calendar days of the date of invoice will result in a penalty of twelve (12) percent per annum being added to the cost of the services billed. Failure to pay the city for the services billed will result in the costs being assessed against the property as a special tax, and all costs delinquent from the previous winter will be entered upon the tax rolls each December 1st.
- B. Deposits of Snow Restricted. Excepting the clearing of snow from sidewalks or entries located upon a public right-of-way, no person shall cause snow to be deposited on boulevards, sidewalks, streets or avenues or any other city owned property with permission therefore from the city. Payment of a fee sufficient to reimburse the city for the cost of removing any snow so deposited without permission may be required.
- C. Depositing of Snow on Private Property. All snow from private property (driveways or parking lots) shall be either deposited on the originating owner;s property or hauled away by the owner on their agent. Property owners shall not place their snow on other property without permission from the owner of the other property. (Prior code § 8.04)
Q: If a municipal ordinance requires property owners to remove snow and ice from sidewalks abutting their property, are the property owners liable for injuries resulting from a failure to remove snow or ice from a sidewalk?
A: No. Although a municipality can, by ordinance, require property owners to remove snow and ice from sidewalks abutting their property, the owner of premises abutting a municipal sidewalk are not responsible to individual for injuries that result from the failure to remove snow or ice from the sidewalk. The long-standing rule in Wisconsin is that maintenance of a municipal sidewalk is a non-delegable duty and therefore, the municipality rather than the landowner is responsible for injuries caused by traveling on a snowy or icy municipal walk. However, municipalities are afforded some protection by Wisconsin Stat. sec. 81.15, which prohibits an action for damages for injuries sustained because of a natural snow or ice accumulation unless the accumulation existed for three weeks.
If a resident fails to remove snow and ice as required by ordinance, that resident is subject to a forfeiture if the ordinance imposes one, and the municipality can perform the work itself and charge the property owner for the removal as a special charge under Wisconsin Stat. sec. 66.0627.
The City of River Falls takes pride in being the largest City in WI on a Class I trout stream and we intend to do all we can to keep it that way. One significant challenge for us is balancing the public's expectations for safe winter driving conditions with our desire to limit our impact on our environment. Although The Center for Watershed Protection indicates that Sodium Chloride has little effect on Aquatic Biota in large or flowing bodies at current road salting amounts, the City of River Falls uses a number of different strategies to minimize any possible impacts to the environment. These include:
Decreasing the application rate can significantly decrease environmental impacts. The City of River Falls typically applies salt only at intersections and to a select few higher volume roadways within the City. We also reduce application rates by anti-icing, prioritizing streets and utilization of pavement temperature sensors.
The City of River Falls began pre-wetting salt that it applies to its street in the late 90s. Pre-wetting otherwise dry salt before it is spread on the road surface produces a number of desirable effects.
- The pre-wetted salt is more apt to stick to the road surface rather than bouncing off the road surface and being scattered in unnecessary areas. It is estimated that this reduces salt use by 20-30%.
- Rock salt by itself does not melt snow and ice; it needs some liquid water to dissolve into. Pre-wetting the salt before it hits the road surface provides this liquid water and results in faster melting and allows for less salt to be used overall.
In 2007. the City of River Falls was near the forefront in adopting and implementing an anti-icing program to its snow and ice control operations. Anti-icing consists of applying liquid salt brine to the pavement surface ahead of an anticipated snow or ice storm. Anti-icing prevents the snow from bonding to the pavement, allowing the roads to b e plowed more cleanly using less salt. Salt brine is typically applied at a rate of 20-40 gallons per lane mile which is equivalent to 45-90 pounds of salt per lane mile. Anti-icing significantly reduces the amount of salt used because it prevents snow from becoming compacted and bonded to the surface allowing easier removal by snowplows. Anti-icing can also reduce overtime costs because application can be made during regular working hours. The drawback to this method is that, if forecasting is inaccurate, deicers are applied unnecessarily.
Salt or Deicer Storage
The City of River Falls stores salt on an impervious surface to prohibit groundwater contamination. Furthermore, salt piles are placed in a structure protected from rainfall, eliminating contamination of runoff by exposed salt. This salt storage facility is licensed annually by the state of Wisconsin.
Up until about 2007, the City routinely applied sand to its streets to help aid with vehicle traction. Although the City has discontinued routine use of sand, we are able to purchase sand from the County in rare instances when immediate traction is needed (such as ice storms) or when temperatures are too low for salt or other de-icers to be effective. Reasons that the City has moved away from using sand include:
- Sand applied to streets, parking lots, and sidewalks eventually washes into the nearest waterway, where it can fill wetlands, lakes, and waterways, or obstruct the flow of water through storm sewers.
- Sand damages waterways by clogging the spaces in gravel where insects live, making it hard for them to cling to rocks. Insects area a key part of a Trout stream's food chain and an indicator of stream health. Keeping sand out of the Kinnickinnic River is important to maintain a healthy fishery.
- Twenty to thirty percent of the sand is lost immediately due to scatter, similar to the loss of dry salt as discussed below.
- Sand piles trap moisture, even when covered, and 2-4 percent salt by weight needs to be added so the moist sand won't freeze. Typical application rates of 500-1000 pounds per lane mile result in 10-40 pounds per lane mile of salt.
- Sand becomes ineffective when covered by new snow and much be reapplied.
- According to the WisDNR, research on friction on pavement treated with sand shows that there is little benefit when traffic is present.
- The US EPA indicates that sand loses its effectiveness as a traction enhancer on many roads after as few as 10 vehicle passes.
Pavement Temperature Sensors
At a pavement temperature of 30°F, one pound of salt can melt 45-46 pounds of ice. At a pavement temperature of 20°F, one pound of salt can melt 8-9 pounds of ice. The City has begun to use pavement temperature sensors , which allow us to calibrate application rates and choose the correct products based on actual pavement temperatures, not air temperatures. We often find that pavement temperatures are significantly above air temperatures.
The City of River Falls has assigned different snow and ice control strategies to its 65 miles of roadways based on the traffic volumes and the physical characteristics of the road, such as being on a steep hill. Sixty percent of the roadways maintained by the City are classified as low priority roads for snow and ice control. Bare pavement is not the goal of the City on these streets and as such, they do not receive routine anti-icing or de-icing. De-icing chemicals are applied sparingly on these low priority roadways at strategic locations such as approaching stop signs or in the event of glare ice.
The City has been very proactive with new technology and continues to try and stay on the forefront of new technologies that may help us balance the public's expectations for safe winter driving conditions with our desire to limit impact to the environment. In 2011-2012 we are going to be trying a Magnesium Chloride product with an agricultural by[product that acts as a rust inhibitor.
As you can see, we have thoughtful approaches to chemical management. Although we actively manage the level and degree to which we use de-icing techniques, the equipment and manpower used to deploy it sometime results in more or less usage of the products than desired. Our Street Supervisor is involved in actively monitoring plow and salting routes to detect malfunctioning equipment (like salt spreaders) and to remind operators of the proper techniques regarding operation of the equipment to match application rates with the expected outcomes for de-icing.