Pet Peeve: Salt on Roads

December 15, 2011

At first glance this gripe has little to do with stewarding land, but using salt excessively on our local roads instead of correcting drainage problems can have a profound effect on water quality and vegetation (not to mention rust on your car).

I’m not talking about clearing roads after a snowstorm here, although that salt also has an effect and can be excessive. Around here salt is being used, mainly on state roads, to keep water that is draining onto roads from freezing and becoming a hazard to motorists. I think instead that the roadsides should be graded so that water doesn’t flow onto them. This is ongoing maintenance that can be accomplished in the seasons when snow plowing is not being done. I suppose there is a budgetary constraint operating here, but surely grading every five or ten years is more cost-effective than spreading salt every couple days all winter? And the result would also be safer for motorists and preserve macadam road surfaces longer.

Salt that becomes airborne in the vapor from passing car tires can chemically burn roadside plants, most notably evergreens. French Creek where it flows through Crow’s Nest Preserve is rated an Exceptional Value stream that could be degraded by salt washing into it. And if you drive an old car (or one that you hope will someday be old) you will find the salt will react with the metal and encourage rust. At this point I can’t leave the preserve, or even reach the southern half of the preserve, without subjecting our equipment to a salt bath. Enough, please!