Letter to the editor: Salt is not solution for safer roads | SierraSun.com

Letter to the editor: Salt is not solution for safer roads

Every year we experience a few months of freezing temperatures that bring lots of snow to our area. This is known as winter. There is no question that this time of year is dangerous and we must be very careful in our daily lives in order to live safely among all this danger.

For many years now, people in our area have tried many different methods of clearing up this danger, the main form being the use of salt. Although these products do help clear up the driveway and the roads, the negative effects they have on the environment far outweigh the good. Using salt to get rid of your ice problem may be quick, but it is causing a long-term struggle. Salt has been proven to have negative effects on nature, and these facts need to be brought to more people’s attention.

Interstate 80 is probably the most noticeable affected area in our region. Although this drive is enjoyable to many people, it is slowly losing its beauty. Roadside trees appear deformed because growth has been severely stunted from salt. A study done in 1990 by the California and Nevada Departments of Transportation proved that at least 15 percent of trees in our area have been affected by the salt.

When salt is “absorbed through roots, chloride tends to accumulate in plant tissues over a long period of time, causing osmotic stress, which can lead to dehydration injury typical of drought” (Road Salt Impacts). Salt spreads amongst the vegetation in many ways. It can be blown off the road by traffic and sprayed amongst the trees. It immediately affects plants simply by absorbing into the leaves. Our mountains are jagged and steep in a lot of places, and this aids to the spread as well.

“The mean percentage of salt-exposed trees on the steepest downhill slopes was significantly greater than on all other slope types; 50 percent of the trees on the steepest downhill slopes were affected by salt” (Road Salt Impacts).

Now, based on our area being dominated by very steep slopes, it is clear that the salt is having a big time effect. This evidence really makes me wonder why salt is used period. Our area is so beautiful, and we are letting it fall apart, in the interest of making the roads safer for outsiders.

My landlord, Lance Skupin, has been a chain installer along I-80 for more than 20 years, and has seen the use and effects of salt products first hand. Skupin is an environmentalist so he is very opinionated on the subject. In a recent discussion with Skupin, I asked him about ways around this problem, and if he thinks it’s too late to take action.

Lance offered some great alternatives to using salt around the house such as clay kitty litter, fireplace ashes and even bird seed. These things are safe for the environment, and will provide you with a little bit more friction in the driveway.

Lance stated that there is no real way to speed up the melting process, aside from the using chemicals. So it is best to work around it, rather than melt it. In regards to the future of our beautiful environment, we can only hope for the best.

Although Caltrans has “reduced salt use over 62 percent” (snow and ice control) since the studies were done, Skupin feels that we let this problem continue for too long. He said that the “best way to go about making a change in the area, would be to inform the people that live in it.” I’m hoping that this article is read by a lot of people that know nothing of the topic. I feel that there are people that have lived here for years and still have no clue about this problem. If we want to make a difference, it will require help from our entire community.

It is pretty obvious that salt is taking its toll on the environment whether we like it or not. Unfortunately, what’s done has already been done, and from here the only direction we can go is forward. I really hope that this information is helpful in persuading anyone who was un-aware of this problem to make a change.

Whether it is a personal choice, like the decision to deal with the ice. Or by getting involved and helping to completely stop these issues. It is our responsibility to preserve the beauty of the area we love, and protect its future.

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