‘The price the environment pays’
There was one glaring omission in “With winter looming, salting roads gets costly”(11/24/18 CDT) -- the price the environment pays! According to the U.S. Geological Survey, some 19 million tons of salt (mostly sodium chloride) are spread on U.S. roadways and other impervious surfaces annually, leading to a number of ecological consequences.
Salt leaches heavy metals from roads. Those metals and salt infiltrate soil and water, killing plants and aquatic life. Streams and lakes undergo long-term salination largely due to road salt, disrupting the migration of aquatic organisms such as zooplankton and benefiting invasive species that are adaptable to higher salinity levels.
Salt from car spray and snowplows can cause forest mortality up to 300 feet from the road by injuring foliage or root systems of trees. Sodium chloride also lures animals onto dangerous roads to lick the salt and harms pets’ paws.
Set an example at home. Shovel sidewalks early and often so snow and ice won’t become packed and sun can melt the leftovers. If you do apply salt, use it strategically, only on steps and key pathways. Use deicers touted as eco-friendly such as beet juice, alfalfa meal or calcium magnesium acetate, but use them sparingly as they may also decrease water quality. Cultivate salt-tolerant native plants near impervious surfaces by your home and protect those plants with barriers such as burlap bags.
Please consider any of these approaches as New Year’s resolutions that will benefit plants, pets, waterways and wildlife. - Douglas M. Mason, Port Matilda, PA