September 25, 2022

Salt Used On Winter Roads Is Creating An Environmental Problem

snowy roads

Salt used on snow and ice covered roads is resulting in too much sodium in nearby bodies of water

The primary method for improving driving safety on public and private roads and walkways is having a negative impact on the environment according to numerous studies. For 60 sixty years, we have depended on salt, or sodium chloride, to add traction on snow and ice covered roads and walkways. This has led to an annual increase in the average sodium concentration in major bodies of water in areas such as New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, among others.

Levels of sodium at water department’s intakes in cities such as Philadelphia already exceed the levels published as “guidance levels” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and American Heart Association. Fortunately, departments can switch to intakes with water of a lower sanity level, balancing out the sodium levels.

If the current method continues unchanged, however, experts agree that serious environmental impact will be felt. Water supplies could be adversely impacted and aquatic life will suffer from the increased sodium levels.

Governments are now faced with a choice of determining where to focus shrinking public funds: treatment for water containing high levels of sodium or lower environmentally impacting deicers for roads.

Some states have already made shifts to more efficient solutions. For instance, in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, crews have started using a salty brine solution ahead of time. The solution, a liquid, sticks better to bare pavement and delays ice from forming.

Studies continue by experts to determine better ways to maintain road safety during extreme weather conditions while decreasing the impact on the environment.