Wednesday, January 28, 2009

This Weather is a Little Salty

This is the worst weather. Snowy, sleety, rainy with slushy puddles at every crosswalk. Wet, cold feet one day -frozen slush the next. I'll take frozen weather over this mix any day.

An article on the New England Wildflower Association website got me thinking about all the salt we throw down whenever it snows. I curse my landlord whenever I have to negotiate the stoop and sidewalk with no salt or shoveling. I hated shoveling snow when I was a kid, I don't wish to do it now. Plus, who has time to stay on top of continuous snow fall? But I could help my world a little if I did. As for road salt, having driven long distances in snow recently, I know that snow and ice causes havoc and a whole lot of stress.

Checking on the web for solid information about roadsalt effect on gardens, the soil, and the water, I found surprisingly little (for the web). I wonder if this is because we feel positively about salting. That said, I did find these sites and stories:

New England Wildflower Association thoughts on salt use in winter
Salt Association U.K. says its how we much we use, not that we use.
L.A. Times story about the affects of salt on an Adirondack lake
Times Herald Record of the Hudson Valley on salt use
Milwaukee Journal Sentinal on road salt effects
Cornell Cooperative Extension on salt effects on plants
University of Minnesota Extension on minimizing salt damage to trees

Salt washes into our water and soil, salt spray negatively affects roadside plants. I speculate that most don't use enough sidewalk salt to see the affects on their gardens (or lawns) but the salt does build up in the soil and groundwater for negative long term affects. Until we find alternatives, or stop driving so much in frozen precipitation, I suppose road salts will continue to be a problem. If you own your home, you can stop using salt on your property. You can use sand, wood ash, cat litter (unused!), or other gritty substances that stick on the surface of the ice. Shoveling more, sweeping slush to the curb would help too. Or we can wear those unfortunately named crampons.

New York City requires that you deal with the snow and ice in four hours, which we all know is hardly enforced in most unManhattanly locations. Read NYC Code 16-123. You have four hours after snowfall to begin removal, excepting the hours of 9 pm -7 am, after which you should have begun by 11 am. However, they do not mention salt at all, but do mention wood ash, sawdust, or sand for throwing down on ice. How environmental our city code has become!

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