September 2005

        What You Should Know About
        Safe  Winter Roads  and
                                       the  Environment
   Salt contaminates both
   reservoirs and wells used
   for drinking water.

   Too much salt
   in streams can harm
   plants and animals.

   Salt corrodes vehicles,
   road surfaces, and bridg-
   es, causing repairs which
   are not only costly  but
   also have environmental
   of their own.
   For more information:
        United States
        Environmental Protection
        Agency New England

   1 Congress Street
   Suite 1100
   Boston, MA 02114-2023
Road maintenance crews use salt, sand, and other
products to keep roads clear of snow and ice in the
winter. But too much salt and sand can harm the
environment and contaminate drinking water sup-
plies. Numerous scientific studies indicate that salt
and sand can pose health risks to people, plants
and animals. Bridges, roads, and automobiles also
suffer damage from salt use. With some simple
techniques and new equipment, however, crews
can use less sand and salt while making roads
significantly safer.
                                                       Less pollution
                                                       Safer roads
                                                       Lower Costs
What are the effects of salt and sand on the
When spring rains and snowmelt occur, the salt that has accumu-
lated over the winter is carried into storm water catch basins and
streams. In surface waters, such as lakes, ponds,  and streams, salt
can harm or kill aquatic life, including fish and plants. Salt also
attracts animals, including moose and deer, to the roadside, where
they can be struck by traffic. Along the shoulders  of roads, salt
damages vegetation and soil, leading to erosion issues.

If salt  reaches surface and underground drinking water supplies, it
can cause problems in people with hypertension.  It can also affect
the taste of water and corrode plumbing infrastructure. Salt gets
into the drinking water in two ways: it can collect  in lakes and
reservoirs, or it can infiltrate into the groundwater and contaminate
wells. Once in the groundwater, salt remains there for decades.

Sand is easily moved  to the side of the road by vehicular traffic,
where it collects oil, grease, and other automotive byproducts. If it
is collected, it may have to be  disposed of as a hazardous waste.
If it is not swept up, it clogs storm water catch basins and fills
streambeds. It also clouds the  water,  hurting aquatic animals and
leading to an increase in microorganisms. Sand is also ground into
a fine dust by traffic.  This dust can trigger respiratory problems like

Safety Concerns of Reduced Salt/Sand Use:
Municipalities justifiably want their roads to be as safe as  possible.
Because of this, the tendency to think that "more  is better" can be
difficult to overcome.  But several recent studies have shown that by
using new techniques, equipment,  and chemicals, roads can actually
be safer with less salt use. For instance, the city  of Kamloops, BC,

                                                                                                    Train drivers and
                                                                                                    managers on low-salt
                                                                                                    techniques and
  Calibrate spreading
  equipment and do
  spot-checks through-
  out the year.
  Start applying salt
  before a storm hits
  to reduce waste and
  improve road safety.

  Note: Find a complete
  list of New England
  Training centers on
  the back of this sheet
EPA 901-F-05-020
                 > printed on 100% recycled paper, with a minimum of 50% post consumer waste, using vegetable based inks

Canada, saw an overall 8% decrease in accidents after changing to low-salt application techniques.
When transportation officials in Idaho switched to liquid  magnesium chloride on one stretch of road,
the number of accidents fell by 83%. Just as remarkably, that same stretch of road saw crews put-
ting out 83% less salt and sand. Not every story will be this successful, but both travelers and the
environment win when municipalities make changes that keep roads bare and use fewer materials.

Recommended actions to reduce salt and sand applications:
Every member of a winter maintenance team can benefit from the training programs offered in every
state by the local Technology Transfer center. They will often teach a program known as the "4 R's."

1. Use the Right Material. Stop using sand, except for low-speed intersections, curves, and hills. Use
a chemical that is effective at current road surface temperatures. Consider using alternate chemicals
on bridges and in source water  protection areas.

2. Use the Right Amount.  The number one factor in applying salt is the surface  temperature. Warmer
roads need less salt. Consider purchasing  inexpensive infrared thermometers for spreading trucks.

3. Apply at the Right Place. Put salt down where it will do most  good. Hills, curves/corners, shaded
sections of road, bridges, etc., need special attention. A section  of road with a surface temp below
-10 F won't benefit from rock salt. Use another chemical instead. Designate sensitive areas as low
or no salt zones.

4. Apply at the Right Time. Apply as early  as possible! Obtain and use the most up-to-date weather
forecasts. Don't wait until snow is falling to get started. It takes much more salt to melt accumulated
snow than it does to prevent accumulation. Factor in  expected traffic,  approaching day/night change
in temperatures,  etc. Brine can  be applied very early, forming a  bond with the road that can be effec-
tive for days in the  right conditions.

Proper Storage of Salt and Sand
Improper storage techniques can cause some of the most severe environmental damage from winter
maintenance materials because they can result in highly  concentrated runoff. Salt is the big offender,
but because sand is mixed with salt to prevent it from freezing,  sand  piles should also be included  in
a proper storage program. Salt storage areas should be periodically inspected and well maintained.

A properly stored salt/sand pile is:
 Located away from source water protection areas, floodplains,  and wetlands
 Sited on an impermeable (paved) pad, with a drain that directs runoff to proper treatment
 Covered with a roof and at least 3 sides

For More Information:

To find out about training in your state, contact your  local Technology Transfer (T2) center:

CT: (860) 486-5400,
MA: (413) 545-2604,
ME: (207) 624- 3270,
NH: (603) 862-2826,
Rl: (401) 874-9405,
VT: (802) 654-2652,
Less pollution
Safer roads
Lower Costs

Too much salt and
sand can  harm the
environment and
contaminate drink-
ing water supplies.
With some simple
techniques  and  new
equipment,  however,
crews  can use less
sand and  salt  while
making roads
significantly safer.
Recent studies have shown that
sand loses its effectiveness as a
traction enhancer on many roads
after as few as 10 vehicles pass.

Sand clogs catch basins, builds
up in streambeds, and impairs
water quality.

When sand is ground between
tires and the road, it forms
dust that can affect people with
asthma and other respiratory