Reducing Road Salt Use: Best Practices and New Resources
As we head into winter, it’s once again time to think about road salt. Lake Champlain Sea Grant continues to support winter maintenance professionals and communities to adopt practices that use less salt. This helps to protect the environment, results in direct and indirect costs savings over time, and minimizes damages to infrastructure, such as buildings, roads, and bridges.
To promote reduced use of salt across the Lake Champlain basin, Lake Champlain Sea Grant supported two recent smart salting trainings and developed new tools to assist with decision-making by professionals.
Smart Salting Training - Best Practices
The first training that took place this fall was the Adirondack-Champlain Regional Salt Summit held October 14 in Lake George, New York. This gathering, hosted by the Lake George Association, attracted nearly 200 participants—about half attended in person and half participated online through a live stream of the event.
As a highlight from the Salt Summit, the Towns of Lake George and Hague Highway Departments reported that they had saved years of salt purchases by shifting to the use of liquid deicers, tracking salt use, calibrating equipment regularly, and using multi-segmented plows that are better able to clean the roads. Such savings was echoed by keynote speaker, Ted Diers, of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, who shared that their Green SnowPro limited liability law has resulted in 20% reduction in salt use in recent years by private contractors.
A few weeks later, Lake Champlain Sea Grant sponsored a Smart Salting for Parking Lots and Sidewalks event, led by Fortin Consulting of Minneapolis, Minnesota. This training, based on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Smart Salting courses, resulted in 13 individuals, including private contractors and individuals from municipalities, universities, and state agencies, successfully becoming Smart Salting Certified professionals.
The course provided participants with tips and tricks for reducing salt use. Best practices included the use of shielding spreaders to better direct salt application, use of liquids for anti-icing ahead of a storm to prevent bonding between snow/ice and the pavement, and measuring pavement temperatures to inform salting practices. Each participant received access to a manual, and course instructors shared more than two dozen additional resources via links in this virtual training.
New Resources for Reducing Salt Use
Instructors shared a new online resource developed at the request of a local private contractor to assist his crew in applying salt at reduced levels. This new deicing application calculator is available at https://go.uvm.edu/deicingcalculator. It is based on guidelines from the New Hampshire Green SnowPro program. Winter maintenance professionals select options to describe the current conditions and product they are using, and the calculator recommends product application rates and maintenance practices.
As sodium chloride—the traditional road salt used—is not effective at pavement temperatures less than 15 degrees Fahrenheit, one of the key components of the new online calculator is pavement temperature, along with the temperature trend—upward or downward—and the type of precipitation that is falling (snow or freezing rain). This tool can be saved on home screens of both iPhone and Android phone users for easy access day or night. Directions for downloading the app are available on the Lake Champlain Sea Grant website (https://go.uvm.edu/snowfighters).
Lake Champlain Sea Grant has a variety of other tools and resources in the works to support winter maintenance professionals and communities to reduce salt use. One resource is directed towards community leaders who are tasked with making spending decisions. A short film, available at https://go.uvm.edu/snowfighters, shares the “why” of reducing road salt. This film, "Reducing Municipal Road Salt Use," was created in partnership with staff at the City of South Burlington, Vermont with the expertise of Peregrine Productions, LLC.
For anyone interested in hosting a showing of the film, followed up by a conversation with community leaders about pros and cons of reduced salt use, please contact Kris Stepenuck (kstepenu [at] uvm.edu) to schedule.