Keeping roads and walkways clear during the winter is no easy task for road maintenance crews. It’s imperative for public’s safety as it greatly decreases vehicular accidents.
Typically, the main item used by municipal maintenance teams is salt because it’s inexpensive and easy to obtain. Unfortunately, however, it has been discovered that using salt as a De-icer has detrimental effects on the environment. Salt not only kills plants along the side of the road, but when it melts, it gets into the soil and water sheds and can pose a hazard to animals, fish and humans.
Salt also makes things corrode more quickly, from pavement to buildings to metal, which mean our cars deteriorate faster.
Because of this, municipalities have decided to look for more Eco-friendly ways to approach De-icing, which we will examine below:
While not the most feasible solution in areas where they get a lot of snow, keeping the roads snow free is the most practical step. When there are layers of packed snow, the ground doesn’t have a chance to warm when the sun is shining. If snow is removed soon after it falls, the less chance it has to accumulate and keep the ground cold.
2. Organic By-Products
Beet Juice – Cities such as Chicago and Niagara Falls have been experimenting with a combination of beet juice mixed with salt. While it doesn’t eliminate the salt completely, beet juice is used to increase the salt’s effectiveness by speeding up the melting time, thereby making it more effective in colder temperatures.
This beet and salt mixture is also effective as a preventative measure, by spraying it on road surfaces prior to precipitation. When done in advance, it keeps the moisture from freezing.
Corn By-Products – Similar to the beet juice, the corn by-products can be used to accelerate the melting of salt, but the product is kind of sticky and sweet-smelling. There is also concern that it increases the phosphate levels in areas where it is used.
3. Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA)
CMA is one of the most popular Eco-friendly solutions for municipalities. CMA has acidic properties similar to vinegar and is water soluble and testing has shown that it does not have adverse effects on the environment.
One downfall is that it’s expensive. It costs approximately $650/tonne compared to road salt which is approximately $50/tonne. The municipalities using CMA as a De-icer justify the costs because of the savings found by not having to re-plant trees and other greenery and longer lives of vehicles.
4. Traction Aids
In some areas where traditional De-icing methods are impractical due to extreme cold temperatures, natural traction aids are often used. Sand is the most common, but there is some concern the dust created during dry spells can create air quality hazards.
Other municipalities have used crushed shale, volcanic rock and even grain and seed by-products from breweries for traction aids.
While there are many other Eco-friendly De-icing products on the market, most are for use on a smaller scale. For the sake of the environment, hopefully advances will be made so they will become a more cost-effective option for our cities and towns.
What does your municipality use for snow removal?
Paul is an avid environmentalist and writer currently writing on behalf of Innovative Surface Solutions. He has a passion for the outdoors and innovative environmental solutions.