Island, North Shore towns concerned about quality of tar, chip road surfacing

MANITOULIN—Area municipalities have reported problems with the longevity of road hard surfacing treatments completed by MSO Construction Limited in recent years. The problem has led the Township of Sables-Spanish River on the North Shore to pass a resolution asking for the chip and tar road treatment for 2017 to be deferred until the process and product being used can be reviewed. The Northeast Town has also expressed issues, with council deciding to pave one kilometre of road instead of hard surfacing seven kilometre of new road in the municipality.

“We are finding that the roads are breaking apart in two to three years instead of four to seven—we just aren’t getting the life expectancy that we have in the past,” said Northeast Town CAO Dave Williamson. “Two years ago we switched to a thicker asphalt emulsion, from 150 to 200, but unfortunately this didn’t resolve the issue. We have contacted MSO and they will be coming to look at some of our roads that we have had problems with.”

Mr. Williamson explained that chip and tar is affected by the quality of stone, the weather (if it is damp or not and the temperature) and a number of other factors.

“Our first step is to work with our suppliers, MSO, to resolve the problem and if that doesn’t work we will be looking at alternative products or suppliers,” said Mr. Williamson. “For this year, instead of investing in a product we are unsure of, we will not be doing any new roads with chip and tar, only doing some maintenance work. We will also be doing one kilometre of pavement in Sheguiandah on Townline Road.”

Mr. Williamson said that the municipality will be testing the emulsion and gravel during the maintenance work to rule out any product concerns and supervising the work.

“MSO is a good company, as was their predecessor, we just want to determine what is causing the roads not to hold up as long,” said Mr. Willliamson. 

The Township of Sables-Spanish Rivers sent a letter to MSO, attaching a resolution they carried at their May 24, 2017 meeting.

“Be it resolved that the prime and chip road treatment that was scheduled for 2017 be deferred until we can further review the process and product being used and that we express our displeasure with the oil product used by MSO on the 2016 treatment and want to be assured of a more superior product for our roads this year to avoid the potholes and breaking up we are experiencing,” reads the motion.

“Until an explanation and remedy is provided for the deterioration of the existing surface treatment, council has opted not to spend more taxpayers’ dollars on a process and product that will be a waste of money,” states the letter from Sables-Spanish River to MSO. “At this time council is not approving of any surface treatment in the 2017 budget.”

The resolution was included in the Assiginack council agenda package last week and sparked a conversation about MSO Construction Ltd. and Assiginack roads.

“Are we having the same people again?” asked Assiginack councillor Hugh Moggy, referring to MSO Construction Ltd. “If it is we are  wasting our money. There’s no tar near Michael’s Bay Road, just dust.”

“It’s no good,” Councillor Bob Case added.

Councillor Moggy referenced the problems seen in Burpee and Mills. Assiginack Roads Superintendent Ron Cooper acknowledged that MSO Construction Ltd. would be returning to Burpee and Mills to re-do a stretch of road that had been hard surfaced last year, but that had since disintegrated.

All of Manitoulin’s municipalities (under the Manitoulin and North Shore Roads Superintendents Association umbrella), are part of a group buy-in to have MSO Construction Ltd. do hard surfacing in the area over a period of time in the early summer in order to receive a group rate. Assiginack, as of this winter, is no longer part of the Manitoulin and North Shore Roads Superintendents Association and opted out of the group buy.

“To be honest, I’m more comfortable with the township doing it (the tendering),”  said Mr. Cooper.

Councillor Case noted that he had been speaking with a Central Manitoulin councillor who said that the state of some of the rural roads in his municipality would lead him to believe that going back to gravel and grader would be a better alternative than tar and chip.

Assiginack CAO Alton Hobbs told The Expositor that the decision to no longer be part of the Manitoulin and North Shore Roads Superintendents Association was because the municipality found that it could get a similar price on the roads tendering alone and was not subject to the schedule restraints of a group tender.

Although Assiginack has not tendered for the 2017 surface treatment of the municipal roads, Mr. Hobbs did comment that, “our road superintendent (Ron Cooper) attests that the roads are holding up as well as previous years.”

The Expositor also spoke with Burpee and Mills Roads Superintendent Shane Chatwell who confirmed that MSO is redoing eight kilometre of the municipality’s roads.

“MSO will be redoing eight kilometre  of road in the municipality,” said Mr. Chatwell. “It is up to the municipality to supply the gravel and there was a misunderstanding with the testing of the gravel which led to the surface treatment not lasting as long as it should.”

Peter Linton, general manager of Ontario Pavement Product Groups (which includes MSO), explained that the issue with Burpee and Mills was a compatibility problem.

“The townships supply the gravel under the agreement (with the Manitoulin and North Shore Roads Superintendents Association) and Burpee and Mills switched the gravel on site so it wasn’t tested,” said Mr. Linton. “However, we agreed to work with them and replace some of the road.”

It was suggested at both the Northeast Town and Assignack council discussions concerning MSO and the roads that new Ministry of Transportation (MTO) regulations have led to changes in the oil/tar used, but Mr. Linton said this isn’t the case.

“This past year the Attorney General Report addressed hot mix asphalt, but that has nothing to do with chip and tar,” said Mr. Linton.

“We source our asphalt emulsion from McAsphalt Industries and it is used throughout most of Ontario,” added Mr. Linton, stating that asphalt emulsion was not a problem. “Asphalt needs warm weather to cure and high traffic to pound it down. If the treatment is done in September and there isn’t a lot of traffic to push it down, it could be pulled up by the snowplows.”

He said the main issue when roads don’t hold up is when the stone isn’t compatible with the tar. He said that testing the stone allows MSO to match the right asphalt emulsion to the type of stone so that it works together.

As for the letter and resolution from Sables-Spanish River, “We were in Burpee and Mills in April and if we had known we would have gone over there to see the problems they were having too,” said Mr. Linton. “We want to address stuff like this and work with the municipality to make it right.”