When winter weather strikes, you can bet that road salt is being deployed to help improve driving conditions. And in that regard, it is a literal lifesaver. However, its widespread usage has a serious impact on the environment.
As the ice and snow it prevents from building up melt, the chemicals from the salt mix into the soil and local water supplies. And that’s bad for both wildlife and humanity.
Many are beginning to question the practice of salting roads.
Yet, there’s no denying that traveling on icy roads is not safe. So, is there a solution?
How Does Road Salt Impact the Envrionment?
While it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact amount, around 50 million tons of salt are used every year in the United States.
All of that salt is left on the road and pushed to the side by snowplows. The process repeats over and over throughout winter. When spring comes, it’s time for all of it to melt, but that fresh snow water is contaminated by the road salt.
This allows the chemicals within to enter the soil and local water sources. This has a variety of impacts on the environment.
The salt will raise the chloride level in freshwater, and once it gets high enough, it is lethal to fish. The water source becomes contaminated and impacts all wildlife that depend on it.
The chemicals that enter the soil impact a plant’s ability to grow.
Ultimately, it washes everything in a toxic substance that does a ton of damage. And this doesn’t just impact fauna and flora.
These substances make roads, buildings, and other structures decay faster. In turn, it can force repairs and maintenance to happen much sooner than expected.
How Else Can We Keep Our Roads Safe?
Road salt saves lives and allows people to travel in bad weather. The only way it will stop is if it can be replaced, and there are alternatives.
For example, calcium magnesium acetate and potassium acetate are two potential replacements for traditional road salt. Another solution is using a brine solution before a storm occurs. Some states are taking the initiative, but not much is being done.
And there is one simple reason, money.
Buying millions of tons of salt for the roads is not cheap. And the salt we use now is the cheapest option available. Making a change to another substance would cost local governments substantially, which is why it is unlikely to change anytime soon.
However, between the environmental impact and the decay it costs structures, it is well worth the investment.
Use Greener Alternatives At Home
Homeowners typically buy their own salt for home use, but you can pick a greener option this year. One of the best options available are pet-friendly ice melts. Traditional salt for the road will burn a dog’s feet, but there are pet solutions that use natural ingredients that avoid it.
This is a much safer option for your pet and it’s better for the environment. It is a little more pricey, but it can really make a difference.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.