Inside the Effort to Reduce Road Salt Amounts in Connecticut

15 Dec 2022 7:01 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

Inside the Effort to Reduce Road Salt Amounts in Connecticut – NBC Connecticut

With snow and ice now on the ground in New England, salt is not far behind. It is used to keep Connecticut's road ways safe during the winter, but too much road salt comes with consequences.

“It performs this function, it works well for many things that we use it for, but it has environmental consequences that are very hard to deal with," said Dr. Michael Dietz, an extension educator at the University of Connecticut. "Once it gets into our soil and our aquatic system, it is hard to get it out.”

Dietz, along with a team of researchers, has been looking into the effects of road salt for years. He said research shows that excessive road salt negatively impacts infrastructure, aquatic life, and humans.

"We obviously drink water and many of us, in rural parts of Connecticut, rely on well water. The salt travels very easily through the soil, it gets down into the groundwater, and becomes a big problem for people who have wells that draw that water from our aquifers," explained Dietz.

While too much road salt can cause problems, Dietz also points out that there is no better alternative to take the place of road salt right now.

“Until some miracle product comes around the only way we can address this problem is to reduce what is being applied, but still keep the roads safe," said Dietz.

That is where the Connecticut Green Snow Pro Training comes into play. The CT Training and Technical Assistance Center at UConn began hosting the training in 2018 and has since trained nearly half of the state's cities in towns in best practices for salt application.

“We talk to them about how using less actually can be more impactful to the winter operation and to make the road safer," said Mary McCarthy, director of training at the center.

Along with best practices, the class focuses on maintenance of facilities and equipment. Operators learn more about how salt works and how best to calibrate equipment so that they are applying salt at the proper time and rate.

The facilities team for the University of Connecticut took the course. They went from using about 5,300 tons of salt per year in 2017 to, now, using about 2,100 tons of salt per year.

“We are using half the amount of salt so it is not going into the streams, it is not going into the rivers. It is important because it just saves money across the board. It saves money on repairs. It is better for everyone’s vehicles, our own vehicles," said Wesley Ayers, manager of landscape services for the university. "It is just a money saver and better for the environment.”

The CT Green Snow Pro Training is now expanding. Recent legislation allotted the team seed funding that has enabled them to hire for a new position and offer the course to private commercial applicators as well.

"It is not just the roadways that are receiving the salt application. There are the parking lots, the residential communities," said Shannon O'Loughlin, an educational program coordinator working with the Green Snow Pro program. "We are just trying to cast our net and reach as many individuals that are working in winter operations and maintaining our roadways, parking lots, and sidewalks."

To learn more about the Green Snow Pro Training and other resources to maintain sustainable winter operations, click here.

“We are moving in the right direction and hopefully we can make a significant impact on this issue," said Dietz.

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