Salting roads harms environment

With so many environmental activists in our mountains, why is there no outcry about the massive salting of roads?  Come spring, our roadsides will be deprived of healthy vegetation and our streams and groundwater will be seriously compromised.

Even a handful of salt can kill plants, including trees, and the tons of salt dumped on our roads this winter is especially troubling.

Salt changes the chemistry of watercourses, which particularly affects amphibians and other wildlife, including birds; it leaches minerals from soil, which increases the acidity of streams and groundwater; and, when combined with other toxic chemicals, salt compounds the environmental abuse.

Furthermore, briny storm water run-off will continue to contaminate our waterways and soil well into spring when a healthy environment is especially important for the reproduction and growth of both plants and animals — and well into the future when the extent of long-range toxicity to the environment is yet to be determined.

Transportation safety is important, especially for emergency vehicles, but salting roads should be a last resort.

— Betty Cloer Wallace


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8 thoughts on “Salting roads harms environment

  1. Carrie

    Hi Betty! While I appreciate your concern, what are the alternatives? You think salting should be a last resort, but what is the first one?
    Thanks, Carrie

  2. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Here are a few suggestions:

    Use salt only in the most critical places, and avoid use of salt near watercourses.

    Use more salt-free sand and gravel compounds, aka “grit” and “chat,” to increase surface friction and reduce braking distance.

    Raise public awareness of the environmental damage caused by salt, and encourage research to find more environmentally friendly compounds.

    Rely more on mechanical snow plowing, and purchase better snow removal equipment.

    Purchase more rugged snow tires for emergency vehicles.

    Lower our expectation that all roads must be passable every day of the year regardless of weather.

    Plan to stay at home during the worst of the storms, and enjoy it!

    Wear “bunny boots” and walk wherever possible.

    Purchase tire chains and learn to use them.

    Thank our DOT workers and emergency responders for being out there during the worst of times.

  3. Cheshire

    “Lower our expectation that all roads must be passable every day of the year regardless of weather.”

    I was kinda with you up until this point. If it weren’t for the very real risk of most people getting fired if they can’t make it to work more than once in a blue moon under apocalyptic conditions , that might be an option. Unfortunately, not the case.

    I’ve had previous employers threaten to fire me for not being able to make it across flooded roads during a hurricane. I’d hate to think what a lot of employers think of “a little snow”.

  4. Asheville Dweller

    I dont expect the roads to be pristine, just sanded and or salted, which oddly enough I live near the DOT site where the salt is kept and my road is usually the last one salted and its a main road.

  5. bill smith

    I think Ms. Wallace makes some great points, as do the other commenters in this thread.

    It would appear this issue highlights the sacrifices we make to the environment for our notions of ‘progress’, or even what we perceive to be daily pay-check-survival.

    At what point do we, as a culture, recognize we can’t have it all, and make some difficult sacrifices in the name of long-term essentials like clean drinking water and healthy ecosystems?

    I understand that even asking this question may sound “elitist”, (and yes, I drive to get to work like most everyone else), but environmental damage is real, and we DO have to lie in the bed we make. Discussions like this are important, and we will have to reach some middle ground sooner or later, as WNC finds itself more and more ‘developed’. WNC is a beautiful place. We need to figure out how to manage the resources here more wisely, as our population continues to expand.

  6. travelah

    As soon as you move onto the secondary roads in the mountains, ice becomes treacherous. Snow tires do not work on ice and school buses cannot travel on unsalted roads if ice buildup becomes a problem. There are two affordable solutions, road salt and chemicals. Driving vehicles in the mountains in the winter requires salt in bad weather or black ice. The other option is to shut the schools and everybody walk

  7. missemmalee

    Tire Chains..I don’t understand the reluctance to use them.

    If teriary streets are impassable, walk your children to the main roads so school buses (with chains) can pick them up.

    Snow plowing is an art, something Asheville has yet to grasp. Hire a ((gasp)) Northern company to train the city how to properly plow. You shouldn’t have to go back and forth the same street 8 times.

    I could go on and on..

  8. Athena

    Sorry missemmalee, but a Northern company would recommend salting before/during plowing. Salt isn’t spread for traction, it is spread because it melts ice. Plows cannot plow up ice, sand does not melt it either. Only salt removes ice.

    I’m am not saying that is the most environmentally friendly of options, but it is the safest for humans. Also, most of the northern rivers and lakes are pretty darn nice despite heavy salting each and every year. It really seems to be the least of our worries for water ways.

    Definitely less impact that the cement/scrap metal/waste disposal sites that can be seen all along the French Broad.

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