Boston is a salty sight this winter

Salt covers the street in Boston.PHOTO BY NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO

Salt covers the street in Boston.PHOTO BY NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO

It’s a familiar sight in Boston this winter – chalk white streets and sidewalks that stain your shoes, corrode your car and spark questions over whether you should brace for a brackish glass of tap water later.

City officials said they had 34,000 tons of salt on hand for the weekend’s winter storm; a splash in the bucket compared to the 290,525-ton stockpile MassDOT has on hand for this season’s winter weather. By Saturday morning, as the blizzard tapered off, a city spokesman said that 1,350 tons of salt had been spread around Boston, and that more was expected.

While frozen-road-fearing motorists benefit from the traction of road salt, some watchdog groups are not thrilled with the health and environmental risks involved.

“When it rains, the salt washes off the road, and that absolutely is a concern,” said Emily Long, a program assistant at the Conservation Law Foundation.

The trouble is that when snow and ice melt, much of it washes into rivers, lakes, and groundwater supplies, contributing to elevated sodium and chloride concentrations. It can also deteriorate concrete and steel structures and damage vehicles.

“For most people, high sodium concentration in tap water is just a taste issue, but for those on sodium-restricted diets, it’s a health issue. Besides public health concerns, salt can also damage the environment,” said Karen Wood, the non-profit advocacy group’s communications director. “Once salt enters a water system, it can be difficult and expensive to remove, so preventing salt from entering water systems in the first place is key.”

This winter, MassDOT began producing what it considers to be a solution in the form of a solution – a salt brine solution that is  23.3 percent salt to water.

According to  Sara Lavoie, a MassDOT spokeswoman, the salty solution is cheaper than dropping salt, and more efficient.

“Increased efficiency uses less salt and sand, resulting in cost savings and reducing environmental concerns,” she said, adding that sand is no better.

“Sand accumulates on roadside edges, catch basins, and drainage pipes which can lead to flow restrictions and blockages in the storm water drainage systems.”

But as far as Long is concerned, brine is a sugar coated solution: “Brine is salt. It’s a liquid mixture, but we’re still putting salt on the roads.”

Mmm, salty:

  • At the start of the snow and ice season, MassDOT had 290,525.58 tons of a salt ready to go,  more than 34,500 tons of sand and 661,423 liquid gallons of brine.
  • Since November, the state has had 15 salt-worthy storms, and has used 234,765 tons salt and sand supply, not counting the weekend’s blizzard. Those figures are not yet available.
  • There are 14,000 known uses for salt; in roads it melts ice at temperatures down to – 6 degrees, according to the Salt Institute.
  • The city had more than 600 pieces of equipment on the roads this weekend. A city spokesman said the priority over the weekend was not to salt the roads, but to clear them of snow.
  • MassDOT uses a variety of anti-icing and de-icing liquids, including salt brine, calcium chloride and magnesium chloride.

 

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

California passes 'yes-means-yes' campus sexual assault bill

Californian lawmakers passed a law on Thursday requiring universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on…

National

Syrian refugees top 3 million, half of all…

By Stephanie NebehayGENEVA (Reuters) - Three million Syrian refugees will have registered in neighboring countries as of Friday, but many remain trapped by the advance…

International

North Korean leader's money manager defects in Russia:…

A senior North Korean banking official who managed money for leader Kim Jong Un has defected in Russia and was seeking asylum in a third country, a South Korean newspaper…

Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 29,…

The Department of Transportation and NYPD said there may be residual delays near all of the street closures on August 29, 31 and 31. Several streets and avenues will be…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

Movies

Criterion's new Jacques Demy box mixes the light…

Jacques Demy, the most effervescent of French New Wave filmmakers, gets a Criterion box all to himself, with classics like "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."

Entertainment

Comedian Joan Rivers, 81, rushed to New York…

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Acerbic comedian and fashion critic Joan Rivers was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York on Thursday after she reportedly…

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…