Soft slag leads to damaged East Palestine roads

EAST PALESTINE – The county’s chief deputy engineer told village officials this week the chip and seal material that wore away from some roads last year came from a company in Sharon, Pa.

“Unfortunately chip and seal has not gone so well for the Village of East Palestine the last three years. We’ve had one good year out of three,” Chief Deputy Bob Durbin said.

Two years ago the village had a problem with dirty, dusty slag that did not adhere to the asphalt. The engineer’s office only recently learned the 6M slag used last year that came from Sharon, Pa., had a softness to it that caused it to wear away from the roads, more so when snowplows were used this winter, he said.

The 6M slag is bigger than the no. 8 slag used two years ago and Durbin said the 6M is made especially for Columbiana County. The material is purchased from steel mills.

“We have used slag going on 35 years-never had any issues with slag, unfortunately as steel mills have declined, slag is getting harder and harder to come by as it comes out of the mills,” he said.

The county purchased slag from three different sources last year and found that the roads in which the material was not adhering came from the same place, he added.

“As we progressed and started to get more and more calls throughout the county we realized that everyone that was calling was using the same material that came from Sharon … now we know this is a particular source,” he said.

In all, eight municipalities had problems with some of their chip and seal roads. Limestone material was used on roads in the southern part of the county, not slag.

Like East Palestine, only some of the roads with the material had issues while others remained in tact, which Durbin attributed to the additional plowing this past winter. The village paid for roughly 1.5 miles of roadway to be chip and sealed last year.

“On all the high spots the roads have crowns. All those places, down the center down the roads, lost material. What we started to feel was, with the winter that we had, all the snow plowing that we did (made a difference),” he said. “Typically we snowplow 21 times a year, we did 44 times last year.”

He explained the plows were pulling the material out of the divots in the road and crushing the material, making the situation worse.

“We have always had phenomenal success with chip and seal. This material was a real eye-opener to us. We don’t know what is different about this material, we don’t know if something in the steel mill that year … was different,” he said.

The slag and limestone targeted for use in this year’s program is already being tested by a lab to make sure the same problem won’t occur again, he said, and advised East Palestine and other areas not to order the material until there is certainty the material will be successful.

The material being tested is from two sources the county has not used before, including a steel mill in Cleveland, he said.