Solve salt shortage with sea salt

AN Edenderry councillor has suggested using sea water which contains high volumes of salt as a measure to treat frozen roads throughout the county.

AN Edenderry councillor has suggested using sea water which contains high volumes of salt as a measure to treat frozen roads throughout the county.

Fianna Fail's John Foley, a 2007 general election candidiate who is also seeking to be included on the FF ticket this time round, proposed the idea during a report from Director of Services Frank Heslin on the severe weather, at Monday's meeting of Offaly County Council.

"Would it be strong enough?" asked Cllr Foley, stating that he could supply the tankers to draw the water.

Mr Heslin told members that the council was expecting 30 tonnes of salt on Tuesday and Wednesday to supply their four large salting trucks and five mini gritters.

He informed councillors that 1,600 tonnes of salt had been used already over 22 nights. He said on a normal night only 30 tonnes would be used and explained "the difficulty is snow" as snow eats into salt supplies, forcing the gritters to go out twice or three times in the one night.

Mr Heslin said that an ice impact team had been set up on November 29 chaired by County Manager Pat Gallagher, who met every morning to discuss the roads and water services as well as the salt supplies.

Mr Heslin highlighted that since the Attorney General had advised people 'will not be held legally liable as long as they do not create an additional safety hazard by their actions' by clearing snow and ice outside their premises, that his advice should be followed.

He pointed out that salt was still not available for public use, as supplies were being conserved, and stressed that members of the public should not enter the council yard during salting season as it may be a hazardous place.

Although the Department of the Environment announced additional funding of €15 million to assist with the cold snap, Mr Heslin said the council would still have problems. He said although Offaly County Council had applied for €375,000 of this funding it wouldn't even cover phase 1 of operations and he hoped that additional money would be provided for phase 2.

He thanked all who had helped during the icy weather.

Cllr Eamon Dooley said some of the council's equipment seemed "obsolete" to deal with this type of weather, and that if this weather is to continue over the years, then a plan has to be put in place. He suggested utilising the equipment of semi state bodies.

Cllr Molly Buckley added that a plan also needed to be put in place to allow voluntary groups to help out in situations like this.

The role of the NRA was questioned by Cllr Tommy McKeigue who said people had been reassured a month ago that 80,000 tonnes of salt were available and that they had enough "no matter what".

He also said that people were told during the week that salt en route from Egypt would take double the time to arrive as the ships were "floundering at sea".

Cllr John Carroll said the council needed to work in the long term with rural organisations as at the moment people "cannot get out." He added that "rural people are isolated."

Cllr Peter Ormond asked could the council not buy salt from other sources? "We need to keep the main thoroughfares and village open. People cant get to the shops and mass. We have a duty to them. Pharmacies cant get supplies. We need to talk to the IFA and the local businesses," said Cllr Ormond.

Cllr John Leahy suggested that communities should be advised what to do, that people were still waiting for the council to come.

"If communities were to take responsibility for their own areas, people would purchase salt and do it on a rotating basis. Everyone is still waiting for Offaly County Council to do the work and that is not happening," he said.