Road salt concerns on the rise in CT

New London

(WTNH) — It’s not uncommon to see salt left behind after a winter storm. It’s used by road crews to keep cars and people from slipping and sliding and to help melt snow.

“We’ve got about 11,000 lane miles of roadway,” said Kevin Nursick, Connecticut Department of Transportation spokesperson. “Towns have about 35,000 lane miles of roadway.”

But he said the biggest use of road salt is the private sector which may use more than it needs.

The road salt is made up of sodium and chloride and it’s the increasing amount of chloride in the environment, which is of grave concern.

“In the last 15 years we’ve seen a doubling of the concentrations of chlorides in the state of Connecticut,” said Phil Trowbridge, Assistant Director of Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Water Planning and Management Division.

He said the highest concentration of chloride is usually seen in smaller streams near roadways.

“When you get streams that are normally fresh [water] then are becoming saltier and saltier, it’s very hard for those fish to survive,” said Trowbridge.

“There is no other go-to product that is mission effective, cost-effective, and minimizes to the maximum extent the environmental and other implications that go along with using it,” said Nursick.

He added that state crews use road salt responsibly by making sure it’s the right amount and goes onto the road, not the grassy areas along it. 

They also store it in modern sheds with concrete walls and foundations so it doesn’t leach into the soil and nearby waterways.

Still, it has gotten into a few dozen private wells over the years and the state has remediated them.

Nursick hasn’t seen any longevity issues concerning corrosion on bridges, although car owners may want to wash off the salt on their cars after each storm.

RELATED: The salt coating roads before storms may prevent collisions, but it comes at a cost for your vehicles

“There are ways we can use less of it and we can be more efficient about it,” said Trowbridge.

UConn Extension has a program to teach that to municipalities.

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