Road Salt and the Environment

Does road salt harm the environment?  It’s winter, it’s cold and snowy and time for those questions to be asked.The US uses about 22 million pounds of road salt per year.  It may be a little higher this year.  Some think that the salt can be detrimental to some plants, invertebrates and ground water.  The research seems to be new and doesn’t seem to take into account the very long time salt has been used.  Road salt has been used since about 1942.  It would seem that we have lot’s of data on road salt use and potential environmental affects. 

If you live in the great frozen north a combination of plowing and road salt enables normal transportation.  The downside is your vehicle can start disappearing.  If you get farther north, the temperatures are low enough to make salt ineffective, so sand, ash and other things are used.  The disadvantage is that you get to drive on ice, a complaint my daughter who moved from Michigan to Anchorage has every winter. 

I lived in Michigan for 20 years and regularly traveled over Indiana.  Without plowing and salting, most of that travel wold have been impossible.  The downside was cars that tended start disappearing.  I never noticed any negative affects in my favorite pike lakes.  Without a great deal more data, I think the concerns are overstated.


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