Green Tips: Road Salting for the Environmentalist
Green Tips | December 7, 2018
Welcome to winter! Winter weather has already visited most regions of the state. That means that road safety is an absolute necessity, especially as family and friends travel to spend time together for the holidays.
Winter road maintenance is typically the responsibility of local governments. They clear snow off major roadways and use road salt to prevent ice from forming. This method lowers the melting point of ice and can stop it from freezing and creating dangerous situations on highways and roads. It has a made a huge impact over the years, reducing road accidents by up to 93% according to a Waterloo study. While road salt is highly useful, it also comes with an environmental price. Consider this:
- 20 million pounds of salt is thrown on U.S. roads each winter.
- Road salt can spread elsewhere through runoff and wind, reaching much further than just the placement site.
- Salt can erode infrastructure (your house) at a quicker rate.
- It can alter the chemical composition of soil, having hazardous effects on plant life.
- Road salt can increase the amount of chloride found in our waterways, presenting threats to aquatic life and our drinking water.
Whether you use salt for your business, your driveway, or your town, here are some tips for keeping roads safe while minimizing the impact on the environment.
- Avoid applying salt next to vegetation. It can penetrate soil and harm plant growth.
- Clear as much snow as possible before application. By removing that fluffy top layer, you reveal the hard packed slush that can turn to ice, which is where the salt will be most effective.
- Apply in small amounts! You really do not need much to make an impact. Apply to ice only. The amount needed to melt ice varies depending on the temperature outside. The colder it is, the more you need.
- Add salt to water for improved effects. The suggested ratio of salt to water is one teaspoon per five gallons. This is not much at all, really showing how little you actually need to use on the road.
- Consider alternative de-icers. While the effectiveness and safety of these other options—like pickle juice!—are not completely established, it’s worth keeping on your radar.
Safety is key this winter. We hope everyone stays safe on the roads.
Want to see how road salt is effecting your water? Check out the Winter Salt Watch program by the Izaak Walton League and test your water for chloride today.< Back to Citizen’s Toolkit
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