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A pile of road salt near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (U.S. Geological Survey)

A pile of road salt near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (U.S. Geological Survey)

Proposal:

An act to cut the amount of road salt used on New York State roadways

Problem:

Road salt harms vegetation, contaminates water and damages automobiles and pavement. Composed of sodium chloride or calcium chloride, de-icing salts damage plants by displacing important elements like potassium and phosphorus in the soil and increasing salt concentrations within plants, making it difficult for roots to absorb water.

Road salt pollutes our waters.  A 2014 U.S. Geological Survey study concluded: “Average chloride concentrations often exceed toxic levels in many northern United States streams due to the use of salt to deice winter pavement, and the frequency of these occurrences nearly doubled in two decades.”

Road salt is also highly corrosive to automobiles and pavement. The website Accuweather.com describes the process: “The biggest threat salt poses to a vehicle is rust, which is accelerated by repeated exposure to salt. Rust on certain parts of a car can create a slew of problems ranging from hydraulic brake system leaks to sub frame damage.”

Solution:

An environmentally friendly method of decreasing road salt use is to combine road salt and, yes, beet juice. Beet juice is a byproduct of sugar production that is usually thrown out.  Benefits of mixing beet juice with road salts are many. Beet juice lowers the temperature at which road salt works.  A second benefit is that beet juice is a sticky and decreases the amount of road salt bouncing off roads, meaning less needs to be applied. Third, beet juice decreases car corrosion.  Finally, beet juice does not threaten vegetation as it is an organic material. Currently, the Niagara region in Canada is using a beet juice and road salt mixture.  It claims: “The Region will see a cost savings of almost $2 per lane kilometer by using the Sugar Beet Juice. This is a significant savings for the Region’s 1,600 lane kilometres of roadway.”  This region in Canada has found road salt mixed with beet juice profitable and safe for the environment. The same can be done here in New York, saving money, cars and the environment.

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