Lakes District Maintenance reflects on winter season

The Lakes District Maintenance Inc. team has wrapped up another winter season. The team is a highway road and bridge maintenance company that covers the Lakes, Robson, and Stikine areas of northern BC. Mike Philip, general manager at LDM, was able to reflect back on the season in the Houston and Burns Lake area.

  • Apr. 8, 2020 12:00 a.m.

“Overall, winter started off a little bit slow, then it kind of ramped up in November there,” said Mike Philip, general manager. (Laura Blackwell photo)

The Lakes District Maintenance Inc. team has wrapped up another winter season. The team is a highway road and bridge maintenance company that covers the Lakes, Robson, and Stikine areas of northern BC. Mike Philip, general manager at LDM, was able to reflect back on the season in the Houston and Burns Lake area.

“Overall, winter started off a little bit slow, then it kind of ramped up in November there… This year one of the things we had a lot of was a lot of freezing rain,” said Philip.

His crews worked hard during every freezing rain event, he said, to clear the roads with the de-icer, and keep people safe.

There are regular workers, and auxiliary members they bring out during harder times, and the shop runs 24-hours a day, so during emergency moments someone is there, he said.

Of course, those employees run on lack of sleep those nights—and are also exposed to the absolute toughest weather conditions of the season—but they take the job seriously. Most of the men and women working for LDM live in the areas they work, said Philip, so they consider the prevention of major accidents and dangerous driving conditions, to be a personal job.

“I’m always proud of our guys and girls, how they do the job out here… They are all from the communities they are working in so they take a lot of pride in making sure the roads are done well, and safe, so that everybody gets home in a safe manner,” he said.

Black Press heard some concerns from local mechanics who wondered about the solutions used in the de-icer on the roads. Some of them claimed it had burned their hands in the past.

In response to this, Philip says LDM uses only sand or salt. The salt comes in granule or liquified form (salt brine), but there are no added chemicals to it. The liquid is used to spray on the roads before a major snow storm, to help prevent any ice from forming. Because it’s only pure salt, he didn’t think it could burn skin. He hadn’t heard of that previously, and said it’s the thing they’ve been using for “25 years.”

In terms of snow, the past winter season was average. It was really the freezing rain that caused the headaches. And they’re now waiting for spring weather to arrive. The recent cold front delayed the team a little—they would ordinarily be trying to clear the roads from left over winter salt and sand debris, mainly to keep it from creating too much dust for drivers.

It requires wetting the road with a water truck, so wouldn’t be good to do if freezing temperatures are still a possibility, either, he said.

LDM has held various contracts with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for decades, but entered into a new contract in 2018, with a few modifications form the Ministry. Mainly the response time needed to be faster in the face of bad weather, and the size of the sand granules became smaller, said Philip.

“This is the second winter season of the new contract for Lakes District Maintenance in Service Area 24, and overall the contractor is meeting expectations,” said the Ministry of Transportation, in an email to Black Press.

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