Where does all the gravel come from that’s covering the WSU campus streets, and what happens to it once Old Man Winter leaves the Palouse? That’s the question on people’s minds when they are stuck at a stop sign spinning their tires on the gravel.
Dennis Rovetto, director of plant services, Facilities Operations, said they call the gravel “gray gold” because it serves multiple purposes. The gravel comes from a local supplier and is kept in a 1,500-yard capacity building behind the motor pool building.
The reason it is kept in a building Rovetto said, is so the gravel does not freeze together in clumps that could break the rock spreadering machines.
(William J. Scholfield, with Facilities Operations, drives sweeper to WSU Motor Pool to unload the gravel.)
The gravel is laid down on the streets when the snow is packed down and de-icer is not enough. Once the snow melts and the roads are clear, FacOps brings out the street sweepers and pick-up broom to collect it.
Rovetto said “the price of gravel has gone up due to the rising price of oil…and is now double what it used to be.” FacOps paid more than $14 a yard for 1,500 yards this year — a total bill of $22,000. That does not include the cost of spreading or sweeping it.
Once the snow melts, FacOps crews spend around four 40-hour weeks sweeping and transporting the rock into a pile behind the motor pool building. The rock then may be used for filler at construction sites.
According to Washington State Department of Ecology regulations, the gravel cannot be used on the streets twice. Every time a tire runs the gravel over, it gets smashed and eventually crumbles into small particles of dust called silica. The dust then can be transported through the air, which is not good for pedestrians to breathe, Rovetto said. To minimize silica dust in the air, water is spread on top of the rocks before the sweepers pick them up is to decrease.
This year’s abundant snowfall led FacOps to use twice the amount of gravel and three times the amount of de-icer as usual. Rovetto said “it’s a never ending job.”