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Road Salt Usage To Be Debated Today

by Hugh McQuaid | Feb 28, 2014 6:30am
(4) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Local Politics, Transportation

Photo by Peter Casolino / New Haven Register Lawmakers will hear public testimony Friday on a bill that would make the Transportation Department reconsider the corrosive effect of the salt spray its using to melt ice and snow on Connecticut’s roadways.

Most agree the combination of salts the DOT has been spraying state roads with has been highly effective in keeping highways clear of ice. However, Rep. Pamela Sawyer, R-Bolton, said the “super salt” is also highly corrosive to vehicles and infrastructure.

“The problem is that it causes a lot of rust, we’ve heard a lot of complaints about rust on brake lines. Mechanics are saying they’re replacing brake lines every three years as opposed to every eight or 10,” Sawyer said.

The bill, which will have a public hearing in the Transportation Committee Friday, would require the department to study the rust issue and report back to lawmakers next year with ideas for alternatives or ways to mitigate the corrosion.

Sawyer said she is also concerned about the effect the solution may be having on Connecticut’s aging bridges, which she said the state has not allocated adequate resources to maintain.

“Oh, and by the way, we’re salting them. It’s just causing a much faster deterioration, not only on the top but as you go down into the metal substructure of the bridges they’re rusting out much faster,” she said.

Michael J. Riley, president of Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, said the salt has improved the conditions of the roads but it’s also caused significant damage to trucks.

“These substances have corroded electrical components, deteriorated brake parts and even caused corrosion on the main frame of many vehicles. The problems created by these chemicals are well documented and have become an additional burdensome cost of doing business. And, they may well have compromised the safety of the motoring public,” Riley said in a prepared statement.

Riley said some truckers are questioning how the substances will impact the metal used in bridges and other types of transportation infrastructure.

Writing to Riley last month, Transportation Commissioner James Redeker said his department’s primary responsibility was to maintain the 5,700 miles of roads in Connecticut and has chosen the most efficient and cost-effective ways to do that. He said the salt the department uses also has less environmental impact than some of the alternatives.

“Consequences of road treatments are always a concern for the department, and we work to balance those consequences carefully, putting safety of the motoring public first. There is currently not an alternative application that works with any amount of effectiveness that is not corrosive,” Redeker wrote.

Redeker said the department has experimented with corrosion inhibitors and its experiences “were not positive.” He said the inhibitors did not noticeably reduce corrosion on the department’s equipment but received complaints sent to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection regarding the inhibitors’ impact on oxygen levels in water.

Riley said the truckers association was disappointed in Redeker’s response because other states use substances to mitigate the corrosion.

Sawyer said states like Maine and Colorado have begun using rust inhibitors because they have recognized the high cost of corrosion on their cars and bridges.

“Connecticut has to get very serious and come up with solutions,” she said.

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(4) Comments

posted by: bob8/57 | February 28, 2014  2:16pm

bob8/57

We dump thousands of tons of salt on the roads. It melts away the snow and ice but then where does it go? It goes into our streams and rivers. It pollutes our wells and reservoirs. It kills our lawns and gardens. How long must this deliberate poisoning of the land go on before people realize what is happening to our water, our crops? Our future? An issue that should be foremost in our minds but the article only tangentially addresses.

posted by: Matt from CT | February 28, 2014  2:39pm

The basic problem was two groups researched the issue from opposite perspectives at the same time, and made changes at the same time.

Back around 2000 the nation’s DOTs wanted to improve snow & ice control.  Studied moving to more Calcium Chloride and other more corrosive chemicals, and concluded “No Problem.”  Connecticut adopted its minimal sand and other new treatment protocols circa 2004.

Simultaneously, the auto manufacturers wanted to reduce the use of hexavalent chromium (the chemical made famous in Erin Brokovich..the movie came out in 2000…do you see the timing here?).  They studied corrosion on brake lines using the salt regimes in use at the time and concluded no problem eliminating hexavalent chromium.

Had the DOTs stayed with the old chemicals, or the auto manufacturers continued to use hexavalent chromium for corrosion control…we wouldn’t be having this study.

But hey, Julia Roberts was a great actress!

posted by: Matt from CT | February 28, 2014  2:49pm

> How long must this
>deliberate poisoning of the
>land go on before people
>realize what is happening >to our water, our crops?

In the grand scheme of things, salt on the roads is a fairly minor issue compared to the entire transportation (road and automobile) infrastructure. 

You’re not killing the lawn past a few feet of the road where they are directly exposed.  It does mean ponds and lakes don’t form quite as thick of ice (I can confirm this from personal experience; I know a pond in my town which is fed by a watershed entirely devoid of salted roadways and forms ice earlier and thicker than nearby pond exposed to road run off.)

Get rid of the salt, and 99% of the environmental damage would still exist.

Can we use less?  Yes, but we’d actually have to accept more personal responsibility.

In many rural areas with gravel roads, salt isn’t used—just plowing—because the salt increased freeze/thaw cycles.  But these are generally low volume roads with folks used to driving on winter roads.

Better, more expensive tires are also available.  These tires have softer rubber compounds and MUST be changed for summer, because the heat would quickly wear them out.  Others embed silicon carbide in the rubber to provide a friction material in the tire instead of relying on sand on the roadways.

posted by: dano860 | March 3, 2014  10:30am

Follow this link and sign-up for the conference:
https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07e8sfio5s64b4deec&oseq;=&c=&ch;=&utm_source=Reminder:+Road+Salt+Conference+Announcement+1/14&utm_campaign=Rain+Garden+Announcement&utm_medium=email
March 28 at UCONN Student Union.