Thursday, March 25, 2010

Over-Salting Roadways in New York and New Jersey

by Jonathan Madden

In a time where everyone wants to be safe wile traveling in hazardous, icy conditions, we have to be reminded about the risk to our environment by over salting our roadways.

Commonly when hazardous winter conditions come to pass, our first line of defense against slick roadways and car accidents is either salting or dropping sand on the roadways. What many don't realize is that over salting the roadways can affect our water supply and any vegetation that is near by to roads, in some cases within a distance of 200 meters. In some cases salt polluted soil will cause the roots of nearby vegetation to not extend as far as normally, inhibiting their chances to survive. Research has further shown that elevated sodium chloride levels can also stun the germination process.

Elevated salt levels in soil when road salt washes out of the roadways and seeps into the ground can pollute ground water as well. This is critical around places where we live in Northern New Jersey considering the fact that we are so close to the Highlands Water Shed, the place where most of our water is supplied from.

According to journal article "Environmental Impacts of Road Salt and the Alternatives in the New York City Watershed" by William Wegner and Marc Yaggi, New York has nine resevoirs and three controlled lakes providing 9 million consumers with 1.5 billion gallons of unfiltered drinking water on a day to tday basis. Contamination of water basins such as these could be disasterous to the water supply and to those who consumeit or live near the watershed.

Because of the high risks involved iwth salting roadways, I suggest we look into other defrosting options. Calcium Magnesuium Acentate or CMA is just as effective as salt at eliminating ice with the advantage of posing no risk to plant or animal life. The noly difference is this alternative method is more expensive than salt.

We defrost roads to preserve human life in hopes of eliminating automobile accidents but don't spend much time to examine the ramifications to our environment. If we are not careful while benefiting from the short term advantages by salting our roadways, we may be actually hurting our environment and our groundwater.

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