Road salt & our environment
Using highway salt involves trade-offs: reducing the risk of accident and injury to drivers and the economic consequences of a weather-related economic shut-down versus the risk of injury to roadside vegetation, wildlife and water quality. Fortunately, through Sensible Salting, the environmental downside can be mitigated while preserving the social and economic benefits of proper winter maintenance. “Use of road salt (sodium chloride) is both cost-effective and environmentally acceptable at current levels,” according to a study commissioned by the Michigan Department of Transportation. The Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences agrees – salt will remain the deicer of choice when all the alternatives are examined. Used sensibly, salt is the best means of providing safe roads in winter.
The latest tool to be developed for selecting the deicer of choice is described in the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 577, Guidelines for the Selection of Snow and Ice Control Materials to Mitigate Environmental Impacts published by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies.
Further details are available on several related issues: