Report urges changes to road salt use in Maine

Maine should develop a statewide plan to reduce the amount of salt it uses to treat winter roads, according to a new report.

The report, from the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Maine, says the state must make salt reduction a priority in parts of the state that are sensitive to salt. ‘environment. The study, done in conjunction with the Maine Department of Transportation, also said officials should increase monitoring of chlorides in water bodies and set up a dashboard to notify the public of its findings.

The report focused on road maintenance in a time of climate change and said the state should conduct a hazardous weather assessment based on hourly weather data to help determine how snow, Rain, freezing rain and sleet mix together during storms in various parts of the state. According to the report, this information can help refine predictions about the duration and intensity of a storm and that, in turn, can help make decisions about when and where to use salt.

The study, “Road Salt in Maine: An Assessment of Practices, Impacts and Safety,” comes as state officials try to figure out how climate change will affect the condition and maintenance of roads, with consensus emerging that a warmer climate will mean worse potholes. and an increased risk of water pollution from excessive salting to treat roads in winter.

Global warming will have a big impact on road salt use in Maine, according to the report. This has led to increased variability in winter weather, with years of record snowfall between 2010 and 2019.

The University of Maine report called for greater cooperation and information sharing among experts as key to preparing for the impact of climate change. He said closer ties between academic research, environmental monitoring and road maintenance workers can help prepare the state for changing conditions.

He also suggests contacting cities and towns across the state, possibly through the Maine Municipal Association, to help keep local officials up to date with the latest research on the impact of salt use on roads and to provide training on its responsible use.

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In Maine, rock salt, or sodium chloride, is most commonly used to treat winter roads because it is relatively cheap and easy to handle. However, it can also enter freshwater supplies, and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection said 20 streams in the state are now on a list of stream watersheds. chloride-poor urban areas.

According to the report, it can take decades for a body of water to recover from chloride pollution.

Maine used about 493,000 tons of road salt in 2019-20, or about 787 pounds of salt for every Maine resident, or 11 tons per mile of road per year, according to the report.

Other states, including New Hampshire and Minnesota, are taking steps to reduce the amount of salt needed to treat their roads, according to the report, and Maine is expected to do the same.


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