Concrete recycling idea falls flat for county(Fort Wayne, Indiana) — Instead of throwing away old pavement, Allen County Commissioners decided last month, why not recycle the concrete and use it in road-repair projects? After all, doing so would conserve landfill space and save tax dollars.But, whoops: Concrete recycled from old roads also can have sharp pieces of metal in it – the kind that can easily puncture rubber. It’s why the county has agreed to buy at least three new tires for unsuspecting motorists, according to Commissioner Marla Irving.And it’s why the county has stopped using recycled concrete until bugs are worked out, according to Mike Fitch, executive director of the highway department.Jerry Irving, owner of Irving Gravel in Fort Wayne, said the county’s use of his material – not the material itself – was to blame.”It was understood from the beginning that the material was only to be used as a base, that it wasn’t supposed to be driven on,” said Irving, husband of Marla Irving – who abstained from the vote toapprove the bid in order to avoid a conflict of interest.The recycled concrete – broken into small chunks after being removed during road-repair projects – is supposed to be covered by a coat of asphalt or other material before being opened to traffic, Fitch said.That didn’t happen initially, said Jeff Sorg, maintenance supervisor at the highway department’s north barn on Carroll Road.”I guess we didn’t realize you shouldn’t drive on it.” About six miles’ worth of recycled concrete was used on Bishop, Devall, Hathaway, McNab and Auburn roads, and has since been covered by other material.Much of the recycled concrete was taken from Coldwater Road, which was recently repaved and widened. But roads are made of more than concrete – they usually also contain steel, which adds strength to the concrete.Irving said most of the steel is removed during the recycling process – either by strong magnets or by hand.But some small pieces of metal slipped through, he said. A second magnet will arrive soon that will allow even more of the metal pieces to be removed. Even then, however, some steel could remain – which is why the recycled concrete is supposed to be used only as base.”We were about 95 percent clean before,” he said. With the new magnet in place, “we’ll be 98 percent clean.”Because the county normally tries to keep roads open even during reconstruction projects, Fitch and Irving said the county might have to change procedures. When using recycled concrete, a finished surface might have to be installed immediately – or the road might have to be closed.Even though the punctured tires cost the county far less than it saved by using recycled concrete – about $1 per ton – Sorg said the county will do its best to avoid similar problems in the future.Someone could be hurt or killed should a car experience a blowout while traveling at a high rate of speed, he said.Despite the county’s faltering first steps in the use of recycled road materials, everyone seems to believe the benefits outweigh the shortcomings.”This has been a learning experience for us,” Fitch said.By Kevin Leiningerkleininger@news-sentinel.com
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