The Mt. Lebanon Public Works Department has a list of 107 spots that are susceptible to ice accumulation on streets.
“When it’s below freezing, we’ll send a staff member out with a salt truck and we’ll salt those areas, and we’ll continue to salt them for that entire day until it gets above freezing,” public works director Rudy Sukal said.
Such measures go only so far, though, in addressing the problem.
“It becomes really dangerous, especially in areas where that might be a crosswalk for a school, where kids, as I have seen, have had to literally step over ponds of ice to cross the street,” Craig Grella, Mt. Lebanon Commission president, said.
During their Feb. 26 discussion session, commissioners focused on a proposed ordinance that could help provide for a wider-ranging solution.
A considerable number of local homes – at least 69, according to information presented at the meeting – use sump pumps to remove excess water.
“Typically, that has been dumped at the curb,” Grella said, after which, under optimal circumstances, it flows into a storm-water pipe. “The problem comes when there is not storm-water infrastructure in that road. The water has nowhere to go.”
At this point, Mt. Lebanon has no regulations in place with regard to sump pumps.
“The ordinance is attempting to rectify that and put some rules and regulations into place, so that we don’t continue to see a proliferation of this issue,” municipal manager Keith McGill said, noting two of the past three years have produced exceptionally wet weather. “That’s led people to try to address water infiltration issues in their homes that they’d probably never had before.”
Water pumped out of homes doesn’t necessarily go to the curb.
“The problem is compounded when the topography of the lot is such that it’s either too expensive or just infeasible to put that water to the front of the house,” Grella said. “So some residents will pipe it to the back of the house, and they’ll pipe it right to the property line. And then it becomes a problem for the neighbor.
“When we don’t have an ordinance in place to address that,” he continued, “what we typically end up saying to residents is, ‘It’s a private matter. You can just sue your neighbor,’ which is a ridiculous thing for us to do.”
The municipality also has been working on remediating problem areas, with infrastructural work taking places last year on three streets. The total cost was about $56,000, which equates to about $190 per linear foot, according to Matt Bagaley of Gateway Engineers.
“You have to factor in the restoration of driveways, sidewalks, everything else that goes into fixing some of these icing issues,” he said.
In the meantime, the public works department continues its wintertime salting practice.
“The flat areas tend to work better with the salt. But if you’re on a slope, the salt will start to melt the ice that’s accumulated, and then it will just refreeze because it’s washing the salt away that we placed on there,” Sukal said. “We’re also deteriorating the concrete curbs. It’s not doing very much good to the street. We’re dumping a lot of salt on these areas just keeping them as safe as we possibly can.”
While municipal officials want to address ice buildup on streets, they also are aware of the accumulation issues many Mt. Lebanon residents face.
“They need to be able to clear that water out efficiently,” Grella said, “so it’s not a problem in their own homes.”