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To Salt or Not to Salt

Portland’s first snowstorm of the winter storm season hit mid-day prompting thousands of people to head home early.  Unfortunately, roadways were clogged for hours leaving many to abandon their cars.  Cautious motorists decided to stay home from work when the second snowstorm that left roadways icy for days.  Portland is now looking at adding road salt to their arsenal to make road ways safer.

salt-truck

The city is concerned with the damaging effects of road salt.  It would ultimately get washed into storm drains which flow to a sewer treatment plant.  Will the salt corrode old metro-area pipes? It affects the roads, the steel in the bridges and the concrete and it affects your car.  And, the salt that stays on the roads will eventually get washed into the environment.

Minnesota is beginning to see some of the environmental effects of road salt use. In the Twin Cities metro area, the level of salt (chloride) in 39 surface waters now exceeds water quality standards.  An additional 38 surface waters are almost above the standard and many others remain untested.  Data shows that salt concentrations are continuing to increase in both surface waters and groundwater across the state.

runoff

The fact is that it only takes one teaspoon of road salt to permanently pollute 5 gallons of water. Once in the water, there is no way to remove the chloride. At high concentrations, chloride can harm fish, aquatic plant life, groundwater and drinking water supplies.

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