Navigating the Road Salt Challenge: Balancing Safety, Infrastructure, and Environmental Impact
Winter in New Hampshire brings picturesque snowfall but also demands careful management of snow and ice on roads for the safety of residents. The primary tool in this battle is road salt, specifically sodium chloride (NaCl), though its widespread use poses environmental challenges. This blog post explores the impact of road salt, its alternatives, and best practices for managing winter conditions while minimizing environmental harm.
The Road Salt Situation
Snow and ice management during New Hampshire winters involves a coordinated effort from the state, municipalities, and the private sector. Sodium chloride, or road salt, is the most commonly used de-icing chemical due to its availability and ease of use.
How Salt Works
Salt lowers the freezing point of ice by forming brine, accelerating the melting process. However, its effectiveness diminishes below 15°F, necessitating careful consideration of temperature conditions during application.
Environmental Impact of Salt
When applied, salt dissolves into sodium and chloride ions, which have environmental consequences. Chloride is toxic to aquatic life and can contaminate drinking water, while sodium can alter soil chemistry and impact water quality.
What Can You Do?
Use Proactive Approaches
Being proactive is one of the best ways to reduce salt usage. These approaches save money and contribute to reducing the amount of salt in our lakes. The most common methods include:
*Creating and applying a brine solution (learn how to make your own here)
*Using salt 1-2 hours before a storm
Consider a Road Salt Alternative
Sometimes, road salt might be the best solution. In these cases, it is essential only to use as much as necessary and sweep up any leftover product to use again in another storm,
However, several non-chemical alternatives to road salt exist.
These are best used in smaller areas and include:
You can use sand to increase traction, but it should be used sparingly as it can also negatively affect lake health. Click here for more information on road salt alternatives.
Encourage Salt-Free Behavior
Promote the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Safety’s Green SnowPro program, which teaches best practices for winter road maintenance and provides liability protection to certified salt applicators.
Hire a Green SnowPro Certified Professional for your snow and ice management needs. Or, encourage your current provider to become certified in the latest deicing technologies. You can browse an updated list of Green SnowPro-certified contractors here.
Are you interested in achieving Green SnowPro certification? Learn more about the program and how to apply here.
What Can Your Winter Maintenance Person Do?
We can take action to reduce salt usage on our own properties, but there are best management practices for salt applicators and winter maintenance contractors, too. These include:
*Choosing the right material
*Using ground speed controls
*Employing anti-icing techniques
*Creating winter snow and ice control policies
*Keeping detailed storm logs
*Storing salt adequately
*Staying informed about new technologies
Learn about more best management practices here.
The Bottom Line
Finding a balance between safety, infrastructure preservation, and environmental impact is a collective responsibility. By implementing best practices, exploring alternatives, and adopting proactive measures, we can navigate New Hampshire’s winter challenges while safeguarding our waters and infrastructure for future generations.