‘The price the en­vi­ron­ment pays’

Centre Daily Times (Sunday) - - Opinion -

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

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