Ice? Salt? Smarts?

Recently, a reader from Duluth, Erik Holmstrom, posed the question about what can be done about the icy roads besides using salt.

As it turns out, there are a couple things that can be done to make travel safer on Duluth’s icy roads.

There is a chemical that is sometimes used to melt the ice at temperatures lower than 15 degrees, roughly the coldest pure salt will work at. It’s called chloride (which covers sodium, calcium and magnesium) and this chemical can melt the snow even in 60-degree below zero weather. Sounds great, right? Sadly, no. Chlorides are harsh chemicals that can scorch the ice off the roads, but there are problems associated, not the least of which is cost. Some estimates put it at $10 to $18 per 5-10 pound container. The Environmental Protection Agency has guidelines for the other problems.

The EPA:
“Chlorides can cause serious problems. They can be detrimental to animals and plants, and they are corrosive. Site conditions, particularly where roads are immediate adjacent to streams, must be evaluated carefully if chlorides are being considered for use.”

With Lake Superior so close, and myriad rivers and creeks flowing into it, the use of chlorides, while not forbidden, is likely not the most environmentally conscious thing to dump on city streets. At least, not in the amounts needed to rid the city of its ice encrusted streets.

There is, however, another solution.

The awesome cognitive, mechanical and visual spatial skills necessary to obtain a driver’s license ensures that everyone is capable of recognizing slippery conditions and can plan accordingly. This includes not following too closely. Leave a few more car lengths between your car and the one you are following. Go slower in icy conditions. Don’t wait for others to learn to drive better, be the change you want to see in the world.

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