Streams

Where Does Road Salt Go?

Friday, February 07, 2014

The Department of Sanitation has 235 tons of salt to spread on the streets of the city when its snows during the winter. The Department of Sanitation has 235 tons of salt to spread on the streets of the city when its snows during the winter. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Steven Corsi, research hydrologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, explains the problem of using too much road salt. Then, Joshua Dawsey, Wall Street Journal reporter, talks about the shortage of road salt, plus some of the consequences of using so much.

Guests:

Steven Corsi and Joshua Dawsey

Comments [11]

Jes from Hudson Valley

To Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn: if you listened to the show then you know the salt goes into the rivers, streams, etc. and messes up the balance in these areas, and is very bad for aquatic life forms. I live in upstate NY and found out last year that my well is contaminated with road salt and is not drinkable! I have basically no choice except to buy bottled water. So this is a problem that will only continue to grow as long as we keep using salt to de-ice our roadways.

Feb. 07 2014 08:37 PM
Soska from Manhattan

Salt poisons plants, erodes sidewalks, under and overground electric cables, burns dogs feet. Besides you can taste it in your mouth when too much is used. Sand, regular cat litter, sawdust and shoveling is the best solution. Does any one shovel snow anymore or is it just Bill & Dante De Blasio?

Feb. 07 2014 11:00 AM
Andy Campbell from Putnam County, NY

The most likely thing to happen the next day after a snow storm is the sun comes out and the sky is very clear. If you can get the snow off before it gets packed down and get the surface exposed, it will likely be clear and dry by the end of the day. (The problem in the city is getting rid of the snow, even though the fresh water it represents is ordinarily a valuable resource, and the prevalence of shadows. In the suburbs, this is usually a real option.)

Feb. 07 2014 10:48 AM
Estelle from Brooklyn

Kitty litter is great on ice. BUT BE CAREFUL! DO NOT USE CLUMPING LITTER! It gets slippery when wet.

Feb. 07 2014 10:44 AM
Patrick from Bronxville, NY 10708

I am listening intently to the program on salt.

There has yet to be discussed the BIGGER question, which ought to be informed by history.

Why use salt at all?

There seem to be two imperatives to salting:

1 public safety

2. resident mobility.

I hope you will ask your interviewed people:

1. Does anyone have documentation on what municipalities MUST have for public safety

2. What is the rationale for salting, versus decaring roads closed to traffic.

Feb. 07 2014 10:44 AM
Tom from Prospect Heights

Hi folks,
Why did NYC stop using sand & start relying totally on salt?

Feb. 07 2014 10:42 AM
Tom from Prospect Heights

Hi folks,
Why did NYC stop using sand & start relying totally on salt?

Feb. 07 2014 10:41 AM
kp

One of the first places the salts goes and where most people observe the most immediate effects of salt are on the plants directly adjacent to sidewalks and roads. The salt gets into the soil and disrupts the water balance in the soil causing plants to 'burn'(some of the burn you see is also from 'salt spray' thrown up my vehicles, etc. that gets onto leaves of conifers, etc.). When spring comes the excess salt in the soil disrupts the growth of turf and other plants.

Feb. 07 2014 10:41 AM
Tom from Prospect Heights

Hi folks,
Why did NYC stop using sand & start relying totally on salt?

Feb. 07 2014 10:41 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

If the salt melts into the water and goes into the ground water, doesn't it get diluted enough by subsequent rain and eventually find it's way back into the oceans?

I think the better option would be perhaps a mix of 80% sand to 20% salt, just enough to keep the water from refreezing while providing sufficient traction. That way we use less salt and can still get around.

Feb. 07 2014 10:37 AM
Phoebe from Bushwick

It has seemed that this this year surfaces that have been salted are much more slippery than in past years (even if the ice has melted away). Is there some kind of new chemical additive this year that might cause this?

Feb. 07 2014 10:33 AM

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