Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Passing the Roadway Salt

By: Duane Craig

What happens to all the salt that's spread on roadways in northern climes to melt ice? Well, one place it appears to be ending up is in drinking water wells. Not only that, but the places where the salt is stored are also on the radar as potential groundwater contaminators, according to a report in the Watertown Daily Times.com.

Road salt contaminating groundwater

In Orleans, New York, residents and property owners are still waiting for the town's department of public works to coordinate water well testing with the state's department of transportation and it looks like the process of identifying the contaminated wells will be delayed another month. But, time probably won't make much difference at this point. According to one observer, contamination from the salt storage barn along I-81 first came to light in 2002 but salt has been used on roads for more than 60 years.

In this case wells within a one mile radius of the salt barn will be tested. From Collins Landing to Seaway Avenue and beyond even perhaps to Grass Point State Park and Fishers Landing, the legacy of road maintenance extends well beyond the roads.

It was New York's neighbor to the east, New Hampshire, that first adopted a "general policy" of using salt on roadways. That year, the winter of 1941-42, about 5,000 tons of salt were used across the United States on wintry roads. However, as the highway system expanded, so did salt use until in 1970, 10 million tons were being used each winter, according to this paper.

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