Road salt also corrodes vehicles and bridges, causing $ 5 billion in annual repairs in the United States, according to an estimate from the Environmental Protection Agency. The AAA suggests that drivers wash and clean their vehicles regularly during the winter to help offset the effects of road salt and limit driving when salt and other de-icing chemicals are at their highest concentrations. .
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In Britain, the Salt Association has said salt is the cheapest form of icebreaking and has low environmental impact when used responsibly. “As with all road maintenance activities, winter road maintenance has environmental implications,” the organization said in a statement. “Road depots, spray vehicles and ice control agent all contribute, but with good management this burden can be minimized. “
Alternative methods can mitigate the damage.
While there is no perfect solution to the problem, there are alternatives that can significantly reduce salt use without compromising driver safety.
One method is to treat roads before storms with a brine solution, which can result in a 75% reduction in the amount of salt used while keeping the roads just as safe, according to the Cary Institute. Building better salt storage sites can also minimize waste.
Some counties, like Jefferson County, Wisconsin, have already made changes. Bill Kern, the county’s road commissioner, said switching to a brine solution has allowed the county to reduce salt consumption by up to 60% since 2018 without increasing the number of accidents. By using less salt, the county has reduced its overall cost of winter maintenance on state and county highways by 20% since 2018, saving about $ 1.6 million, Kern said.
Over the past decade, some states, including Rhode Island, have passed legislation to reduce their use of road salt and have increasingly applied a brine solution to roads in winter, but environmentalists say more must be done.
Although engineers have developed better alternatives, they have not been widely implemented in part because they require upfront costs to purchase equipment, Ms. Kelly said.