Frequently Asked Questions By Municipalities and Counties about Sand/Salt Piles

Prepared by the Departments of Environmental Protection and Transportation

Q: What does a project priority number mean for my town?

A: If the town received a project priority number of 1, 2 or 3, then the town remains eligible for funds for the construction of a municipal sand/salt storage If the town received a project priority number of 4 or 5, the town is no longer eligible for funds for the construction of a municipal sand/salt storage facility and is no longer obligated under state law to build such a building provided the sand/salt pile remains at that site. However, the town is still responsible for "good housekeeping" at the site.

Q: Our town sand/salt pile is a Priority 1 (or 2 or 3). Are funds available now to build? Who will notify me when they are?

A: The order for reimbursement to municipalities and counties is based upon the town or county's 1999 project priority number.  Funding has been appropriated for some new Priority 1 projects but remains limited. The best thing to do is call or e-mail the Department of Transportation, Division of Community Services at (207)624-3270 or peter.coughlan@Maine.gov.  DOT will notify towns when funding is available for their projects, but ultimate receipt of the money is on a first come/first serve basis within priority number grouping.

Q : When our town builds its sand/salt storage building, how much money will we receive from the state? How is the cost-share calculated?

A: The amount of funding depends on the number of winter miles maintained by the town. The minimum cost-share is 25% (town with all townways and no StateAid roads) to a maximum of 100% (town with no townways and all StateAid miles). The typical state share is between 40% and 70%.  

Q: How do we know what is the best or most typical building design and how much a facility costs to construct?

A: Call the DOT's Community Services Division at (207)624-3270 or visit their web site.   The DOT has over fifteen years worth of data on all types and sizes of municipal sand/salt storage buildings and can provide a lot of useful information.

Q:  What are the new building deadlines?

A:  For municipalities and counties, the building deadlines are as follows:

Event

Priority 1 and 2

Priority 3

Step A: Preliminary notice form to DOT

the later of:
April 1, 2001 -or- one year from notice of availability of state funds

the later of:
January 1, 2003 -or- one year from notice of availability of state funds

Step B: Final review of plans by DOT

April 1, 2002 -or- one year from the date in Step A

January 1, 2004 -or- one year from the date in Step A

Step C: Construction complete and facility in operation

April 1, 2003 -or-two years from the date in Step A

January 1, 2005 -or- two years from the date in Step A

An owner or operator of a municipal or county salt or sand/salt storage area is not in violation of these deadlines if that owner/operator is eligible for a state grant and the state grant is not available. The DEP cannot issue time schedule variances from the dates in this chart.  Owners/operators will receive written correspondence from DOT when their funding is available.  Funding is allotted first to towns within a particular priority category who have already constructed their sand/salt buildings and submitted all necessary paperwork to DOT.  Therefore, the sooner your town builds, the sooner your town in likely to receive reimbursement when funding is available for that priority category.

Q:   Our town built a sand/salt storage building several years ago and never received any reimbursement.  Will we ever receive our money?

A:  The 1999 legislation made provision to set aside 20% of any new monies appropriated to the facility construction program to pay Priority 4 and 5 towns that had built storage buildings before November 1, 1999.  Contact Peter Coughlan at DOT, (207)624-3270 or peter.coughlan@maine.gov for more information.  Currently, more than 40 towns still await reimbursement.

Q: Our town contracts for all its winter road maintenance and the contractor owns the sand/salt pile. How is the project priority number determined for our town?

A: A site assessment, either through a registration form similar to the type towns completed or an on-site visit, was conducted at the sand/salt pile operated by the town's private contractor. The project priority number for the town is based upon findings from the private contractor's site, whether located in the town or not, and both the town and the contractor are notified of the priority ranking of the site.

A few notes of caution regarding the use of contractors to provide winter road maintenance. First, should the town change contractors and the location of the sand/salt pile, the town must immediately notify the DEP. Changing contractors may change the project priority number for the town. Second, depending on the contractual relationship, either the town, contractor or both parties may be responsible for implementing siting and operational requirements for sand/salt piles under DEP rules. Finally, funds dispersed through this state construction program are only available for public buildings on public land and not for private uses.

Q:   Our town is going to build its new sand/salt building on a different site than where our current pile is located.  Can we do this?

A:  Provided the proposed site is no closer to a private well than the current sand/salt pile and is not geologically different from where the sand/salt pile now sits, a town may build a sand/salt building on the same contiguous property on which the sand/salt pile now sits without further restriction or DEP approval.  For all other new locations, the site must meet criteria in DEP rules.  In general, a new sand/salt storage building should not (a) overlie a significant sand and gravel aquifer; (b) be within 300 feet of a private well; or (c) lie within a source water protection area for a public water supply.  If in doubt, contact the DEP for a site visit and approval before engaging an engineering firm to begin design work.

One other note -- Once the building is finished, DEP does not consider the project complete until all remnants of the existing sand/salt pile are moved to the building and the area on which the pile used to sit is brought back to grade.  Too many towns have constructed buildings only to continue contaminating ground water because they then abandoned their former sand/salt pile.  When necessary, DEP will advise DOT to hold payment of final reimbursement funds until former sand/salt pile is removed.

Q: Our town sand/salt pile is a Priority 4 (or 5) pile and we don't plan to move it to a new location in the foreseeable future. Does the town need to do anything special?

A: No. The town is no longer obligated to construct a sand/salt storage facility. As long as the sand/salt pile remains at its current site, the sand/salt pile and site is exempt from ground water classification laws. However, both the DEP and the DOT recommend that the town take measures to minimize the impact of the sand/salt pile, as the town is not exempt from civil litigation regarding property damage or salt-contaminated, drinking water wells.

Q: Our town is being asked to move or is voluntarily moving its sand/salt pile from its current location. What does the town need to do?

A: After October 1999, any municipality moving its sand/salt pile to a new location must (a) register the new site with the DEP and (b) comply with DEP rules, Chapter 574, "Siting and Operation of Road Salt and Sand-Salt Storage Areas." The DEP also strongly recommends that the town contact the Department for an on-site evaluation of the new location prior to the move. For a copy of the rule or to schedule a site evaluation, call the DEP at (207) 592-2068 or e-mail Erich Kluck.  

Q : Why might the town be required to build a facility and when the nearby DOT sand/salt pile remains uncovered?

A: The DEP makes no distinction between owns or operates a sand/salt pile when it relates to site assessments or building requirements. Municipalities, counties, state entities and private contractors were all evaluated using the same criteria and project priority numbers were assigned without distinction to ownership. For two or more sand/salt piles in a town, the project priority numbers may be different or the funds for the municipal projects are available and the DOT/state funds are not.

Q: There are several contractors in our town that operate sand/salt piles. How does the town find out if these contractors' piles are registered and what their project priority numbers are?

A: Contact the DEP at (207)791-8101 for information about sand/salt piles registered in your town. If you know of contractors who are operating unregistered sand/salt piles, please call the DEP with their name and mailing address or telephone number.

 

Q:   Our town has a sand/salt building or pile, and we keep the area secure to prevent theft.  Can we put a small pile for town residents outside the gate?

A:  Yes, as long as the pile for residents: (a) is on the same contiguous site as the sand/salt building or pile;  (b) controls are used to minimize movement of sand and prevent pile "sprawl" (such as cement blocks, Jersey barriers, etc.); and (c) the pile contains no more than one truckload of mixed material at a time.  The DEP prefers that such "Residents Only" piles also be kept on an impervious surface, if possible, and removed to the main pile or building at the end of the winter season.

 

Q:   Can we store unmixed sand outside our sand/salt storage building?

A:  Yes, unmixed sand may be stored outside a building.  Salt or mixed sand/salt may not be stored outside a storage building without re-registering the site and complying with all other DEP requirements regarding outside storage of salt and sand/salt piles.