Storm preparation adds to salt contamination in environment

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 1:22 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Preparations for another winter storm system are underway, including salting the roadways.

That salt, however, is made up of chemical compounds that stay in the environment long after the snow melts.

Scientists say there are major benefits to using salt on the roadways, but there are also some drawbacks. The sodium chloride breaks down into separate ions that persist in the environment and can cause problems to groundwater, aquatic plants and animals, and infrastructure.

“When you’re putting down 24 million tons of salt, it has to go somewhere,” begins Joel Snodgrass professor, Department of Fish and Wildlife conservation at Virginia Tech. “It can be very corrosive. It shortens the lifespan of appliances as well as impacts things like vehicles, bridges, our road structures. When it gets in our streams and wetlands and lakes, it impacts our wildlife.”

“All of these environmental impacts are unintended consequences of this really great system we’ve been using since the 1950s. It has to be used in moderation,” adds Chelsea Peters, assistant professor of environmental studies at Roanoke College.

Shoveling personal stairs and driveways are one way you can personally cut down on the amount of salt entering the environment after a snowstorm.

Scientists add that there is research being done to find an alternate way to reduce the freezing point of water on roadways.

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