Paint the Town Green
Celebrate Arlington’s Path to a Sustainable Future
Sunday, September 23, 2018 - 3-5 p
Arlington Town Hall, 730 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, MA
Salt on the roads: Good for safety, bad for environment
By Sandy Bauers
Over the last 60 years - pretty much since regular use of sodium chloride on roads began - the annual average sodium concentration in the Delaware River has nearly tripled and chloride has increased fivefold, researchers have found. Because the department, like many others, can switch intakes and mix in water with lower salinity, the final product contains lower levels, said Chris Crockett, director of planning and research.
If current trends continue in the coming decades, however, experts say that aquatic life will suffer and water supplies could be threatened. Sodium is a concern for people with medical conditions such as hypertension.
"This cannot go on indefinitely. It is not sustainable," said Jonathan Husch, chair of Rider University's department of geological, environmental and marine sciences, which has been researching salt issues locally.
Unlike the pollutants that are typically removed by water-treatment plants, getting the salt out can require entirely different technologies such as reverse osmosis.
Eventually, said Crockett, governments may need to decide on which end of the process to spend precious public funds: more environmentally friendly deicers for the roads or new treatments for the water. Both cost more.
Officials - especially those in more northern areas - have been aware of the problems with salt for more than a decade. But it's only been in the last few years, with increased public focus on the environment, that significant innovations have emerged.
Highway crews in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey have been spraying ahead of time with a salty brine solution. The liquid - look for the stripes down the lanes before a storm - stays on a bare road better than salt, it delays the formation of ice and, when salt is spread later, it speeds melting.
In 1940, an estimated 149,000 tons of rock salt were sold in the United States for highway use. Now, we're up to about 18 million tons in a bad winter.
Meanwhile, study after study has found that from the Great Lakes to mountain streams, salinity in water bodies has been rising. In isolated cases, municipal water wells have had to be shut down because of contamination from road salt.
Wetlands have been affected. Salt-tolerant species have become more common along highways with high salt use.
In 2009, a U.S. Geological Survey study found that 40 percent of streams in and around Northern U.S. cities underlain by certain kinds of aquifers had salt levels high enough to damage aquatic life.
Earlier this year, USGS researcher Steve Corsi and others collected water fleas and flathead minnows in streams around Milwaukee. They found that during winter deicing, water in more than half the streams sampled was toxic to the organisms or affected their growth and reproduction.
Eventually, salt can change not only a stream's plants and aquatic organisms, but its entire ecosystem, said Philadelphia's Crockett. "You go from things that are not tolerant of a salty environment to things that can handle that kind of shock."
Spreaders have been reengineered and recalibrated to reduce overshoot and to keep the salt from bouncing onto the shoulder.
In some cases, workers can clean the same amount of snow with half the salt that they once used.
Officials employ elaborate calculations to project nuances of temperature and precipitation as storms approach and intensify.
This year, PennDot is piloting a sophisticated storm-fighting computer system - with touch screens in the trucks - that helped Indiana reduce salt use by a third. Using radar, it forecasts road conditions and fine-tunes how much salt should be spread.
Manufacturers are coming out with new deicers, including one made from beet juice. Transportation officials in Maryland, New York, and Chicago are trying it.
Marketed under brand names such as GeoMelt and IceBite, it is less corrosive for bridges and cars - another issue surrounding salt. Also unlike salt, it doesn't cause potholes.
This, like many other salt "alternatives," is really just an additive. It helps a brine solution stay put and enhances the melting effect.
But some have complained that the beet juice stains and stinks like rotting vegetables. It has unwanted environmental effects, too. Bacteria that break down the organic chemical consume oxygen - and low oxygen levels are another problem in many urban streams.
And a Madison, Wis., study found that substituting the beet product for the salt brine it used in 2008-09 would have cost more than 10 times as much.
So good old road salt is still the cheapest thing going and the primary deicer. Although anything that melts in water will lower its freezing temperature, no other broadscale substitutes have taken hold.
Natick approves zoning change for clean energy businesses
This is an article from the Metro West Daily News about Natick approving changes to its zoning codes.
As part of the Green Communities Act, we are advocating for Arlington to adopt the zoning stretch codes. Marc Breslow will be presenting to the Arlington Board of Selectmen on Dec. 14th.
Stay tuned for more details.
New Links to East Arlington Liveable Streets website and rss feed have been added to the site.
I've added a link to their website in the "Links" section of our site under "Town of Arlington Websites".
I've also added a link to their rss feed in the "newsfeeds" section of the website" under the "Other Local Organizations" category.
We should do the same for other local related organizations as well.
At our last SA meeting there were quite a few stories about the uselessness of the NSTAR energy audits. I had one done about a year ago and was told that my house was pretty tight. I was skeptical because it seemed unlikely that the previous owner had done much to update the insulation and seal leaks and I was really ezpecting to be told that there were lots of things I could do to tighten things up. When Jeremy Marin from the A-HEET program came over to do an audit to evaluate my house to see if it was a good fit, I found out just how bad the NSTAR audit really was.
Jeremy spent the better part of 2 hours looking at both the exterior and interior problems and found that there were lots of leaks and things that needed to be addressed. The basement had lots of issues including gaps around the windows and especially around the foundation where it meets the first floor. There were gaps around the water spickets that had never been filled with caulk and lots of places where cold air could get up to the first floor living space. The forced hot air ducts had lots of leakage at the joints between sections and the hot water pipes weren't insulated either.
Jeremy thought the house was a good project for A-HEET and scheduled a blower door test. This revealed lots of additional opportunities to do air sealing on the first and second floors of the living space. One big source of cold air is the crawl space on the second floor. In addition to needing more insulation, there was no insulation under the plywood floor in the crawlspace and there was a big hole that openned directly into the roof allowing cold air to get into the crawlspace and then into the living space.
We're making plans to schedule the A-HEET event and I will be posting updates here to document what was done and how much improvement we are able to make.
UPDATE - 1-7-2010:
Jeremy arrange for a blower door test and it revealed lots of leaks that could be plugged. It took less than an hour to go through the house and identify all of the leaks. It is amazing how much different this was from the NSTAR energy audit. This really highlights how important it is to get a "real" audit complete with the blower door test.
The date has been set - Saturday, January 16th from 9am - 1pm. The materials are in the process of being purchased and collected. Jeremy will be doing some prep work in the crawl spaces a few days before the actual event.
UPDATE - 1-13-2010..
We're getting close now. Jeremy came over this morning to do some prep work in the crawl spaces. We decided that the insulation that was in the crawl space was adequate for now. I will wait until the spring and add some rigid foam insulation on the wall to the living space at that point. There was also some dampness that I'm going to look into (hopefully not a big roofing job) and also look into having some isonene blown into the space between the floor of the crawlspace and the ceiling to the living room.
All the materials have been purchased and I'm now preparing to get the food for the event lined up.
In order to get at the crawl apace I had to remove all of the boxes and bags that were in storage there which created the perfect opportunity to toss a bunch of old stuff! It's amazing how much stuff gets accumulated over the years.
UPDATE - Jan.22nd, 2010
The event was very successful. 31 volunteers showed up between 8 and 9am. They broke into teams and attacked all of the items that Jeremy had identified during the walk through and blower-door test. A team headed for the basement to tackle the leaky windows and doors, filling the gap around my foundation, wrapping the heating ducts, caulking the holes around pipes and the chimney. Another team headed up to the second floor to attack the crawlspace to add insultaion and to seal all of the doors to the crawl and closet spaces. Another team went to work putting gaskets behind all of the outlets and caulking around the bathroom vent. After 4 hours of work the moment of truth came - the final blower-door test. The baseline from the first test was 3100 CFM. After all the work was done the result was 2160, a reduction of 940 CFM or about 30%.
You can read more about the event and about A-HEET in an article posted by Bob Sprague on YourArlington.Com.
I purchased a new tool for creating templates and had to try it out on our website. I built the new template around our logo but wanted to crate a template that would be lighter in feel and add a dropdown top menu. I hope you like the new look and feel. I'll be making some adjustments to the menus and organization of things.
Climate Change News
Sep 23, 2018 | 04:37 am
New paper by award-winning American physicist, Amory B. Lovins, reveals energy efficiency as a bigger, cheaper resource than expected. Distinguished American energy expert Amory Lovins Tuesday published what may be the most important findings for climate change since Lord Nicholas Stern published “The Economics of Climate Change” in 2007. Current climate change thinking argues that the world has to use energy at least 3% more productively each year in order to stay below 2 degrees. Amory Lovins argues that the world’s ability to sustain such rapid savings (slightly above the 2015 peak of 2.8%/y) is far greater—and can prove even more profitable—than had been thought. In the paper, titled How Big Is the Energy Efficiency Resource?, Lovins shows that the potential for energy efficiency has been massively understated and its cost overstated, by analyzing not whole buildings, vehicles, and factories, but only their individual parts, thus missing valuable ways to help the parts work together to save more energy at lower cost. Lovins shows a pathway to staying well below 2 degrees is more achievable that any current climate scenarios assume or suggest. “In the same way that no one expected the cost of solar and wind to plummet, driving faster adoption that cuts their cost further,” Lovins explained, “we have overlooked the ability of modern energy efficiency to do the same thing.” The paper cites strong empirical evidence that the scope for energy efficiency is actually severalfold larger and cheaper than had previously been thought. Unlike renewable energy, whose[…]Read more...
- Climate Change News Sep 23, 2018 | 04:21 am Read more...
Climate Change News
Sep 22, 2018 | 05:52 am
What do you first think when you see a picture of a burning car on Twitter? Tesla of course, since that’s the public service announcement the media has drilled into our head. Also, you know, a gas tank can’t catch fire and blow up. And even if gas was flammable, cars wouldn’t be catching on fire every day, ya know?From one of our newest reports, here are a few quotes about fires (note that ICE = internal combustion engine, which is the thingie that burns gasoline or diesel in a “normal” car):“ICE cars are fundamentally more exposed to fatal fire risks than their electric counterpart.”“Even in case of collision, ICE vehicles are more likely to catch fire than hybrid vehicles.”“ICE cars are fundamentally more exposed to fatal fire risks than their electric counterparts, as the deadliest fires are mostly due to flammable liquids located in the engine area.”Read more at ICE Car Death Watch Trolls the TrollsRead more...
Climate Change News
Sep 22, 2018 | 05:45 am
China’s largest lithium producer, Ganfeng Lithium, said on Friday that it had signed a three-year deal to supply Tesla with lithium hydroxide for batteries—another lithium supply agreement for Tesla as it tries to stay ahead in raw materials sourcing before the coming massive EV competition from legacy carmakers. The top Chinese lithium producer will supply around one-fifth of its production to Tesla under the deal between 2018 and 2020, according to a filing by Ganfeng Lithium with the Shenzhen stock exchange as carried by Bloomberg. The agreement can be extended by another three years, Ganfeng Lithium said. In May of this year, Tesla entered into an agreement with Australia’s Kidman Resources Limited. The Australian company entered into a binding deal to supply Tesla with lithium hydroxide for an initial term of three years on a fixed-price take-or-pay basis from the delivery of first product. The deal also has two 3-year term options for renewal. If Tesla’s Nevada factory reaches battery production equivalent to 35 gigawatt hours by late next year, Tesla may need 28,000 tons of lithium hydroxide from late 2019 onwards, according to forecasts by industry consultants Benchmark Minerals, quoted by Bloomberg. Read more at Tesla Signs Lithium Supply Deal with China’s Biggest ProducerRead more...
- Climate Change News Sep 22, 2018 | 03:50 am Read more...
Climate Change News
Sep 21, 2018 | 07:15 am
In North Carolina, the #2 solar state, Florence was the first extreme weather test for much of its renewable energy. Nuclear and coal ash had flood problems.Faced with Hurricane Florence's powerful winds and record rainfall, North Carolina's solar farms held up with only minimal damage while other parts of the electricity system failed, an outcome that solar advocates hope will help to steer the broader energy debate.North Carolina has more solar power than any state other than California, much of it built in the two years since Hurricane Matthew hit the region. Before last week, the state hadn't seen how its growing solar developments—providing about 4.6 percent of the state's electricity—would fare in the face of a hurricane.Florence provided a test of how the systems stand up to severe weather as renewable energy use increases, particularly solar, which is growing faster in the Southeast than any other other region.Read more at Solar Energy Largely Unscathed by Hurricane Florence’s Wind and RainRead more...
Climate Change News
Sep 21, 2018 | 06:30 am
ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Occidental Petroleum join ten other major fossil fuel producers that say they recognize the goals of the Paris climate deal. ExxonMobil, Chevron and Occidental Petroleum have joined a global group of oil giants aiming to limit their climate impact. According to the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), its three new members recognize and support the Paris Agreement goal of keeping the temperature increase below 2C. As a first gift, they will be contributing $100m to the group’s climate fund. Darren Woods, chairman and chief executive officer of ExxonMobil said: “Our mission is to supply energy for modern life and improve living standards around the world while minimizing impacts on the environment. This dual challenge is one of the most important issues facing society and our company.” Created in 2014, the OGCI comprises 13 oil and gas companies and aims to minimize the impacts of greenhouse gases through investments and research into green technology. The group funds research into cutting emissions related to the production of fossil fuels. It advocates for carbon capture mechanisms and more efficient transport engines as ways to decrease emissions. Exxon, Chevron First US Companies to Join Oil and Gas Climate AllianceRead more...
Climate Change News
Sep 21, 2018 | 05:45 am
Model 3 sedan has been awarded a five-star rating by the U.S. auto safety agency NHTSA in tests that are standard for cars in the United States. The agency has been investigating crashes involving other Tesla models, which have raised questions over the functioning of the automaker’s auto-pilot system. The company’s shares were up 1.7 percent at $304.27 in early trading on Thursday. The agency started the 5-Star safety ratings program in 1993 and Tesla's Model X and Model S, which has been the subject of at least one NHTSA investigation, have both received the top rating in the past. The ratings provide information about crash protection and rollover safety of new vehicles. Read more at Tesla Model 3 Gets 5-Star Rating from U.S. Safety AgencyRead more...
Climate Change News
Sep 21, 2018 | 05:05 am
Along coastlines, some homes that are currently high and dry could be flooded as seas rise over the next century. The threat may be several decades away, but the real estate market is already responding.Ryan Lewis of the University of Colorado is part of a team that analyzed hundreds of thousands of coastal real estate transactions over a decade.They compared the sale prices of homes that were similar in almost every way: same size, same zip code, and the same distance from the beach.Lewis: “The difference is either one house is slightly higher than the other, or one house is protected by natural features.”In other words, two identical homes – one more likely to flood in the future, and one less. The analysis found that more vulnerable properties sold, on average, for about seven percent less.Read more at Sea-Level Rise Is Already Hitting the Real-Estate MarketRead more...
Climate Change News
Sep 21, 2018 | 04:10 am
Targeted engineering projects to hold off glacier melting could slow down the collapse of ice sheets and limit sea-level rise, according to a new study published in the European Geosciences Union journal The Cryosphere. While an intervention similar in size to existing large civil engineering projects could only have a 30% chance of success, a larger project would have better odds of holding off ice-sheet collapse. But study authors Michael Wolovick and John Moore caution that reducing emissions still remains key to stopping climate change and its dramatic effects. "Doing geoengineering means often considering the unthinkable," says Moore, a scientist at Beijing Normal University, China, and a professor of climate change at the University of Lapland, Finland. The term 'geoengineering' is usually applied to large-scale interventions to combat climate change. But instead of trying to change the entire climate, Wolovick and Moore say we could apply a more targeted approach to limit one of the most drastic consequences of climate change: sea-level rise. Their "unthinkable" idea is glacial geoengineering: making changes to the geometry of the seafloor near glaciers that flow into the ocean, forming an ice shelf, to prevent them from melting further. Some glaciers, such as the Britain- or Florida-sized Thwaites ice stream in West Antarctica, are retreating fast. "Thwaites could easily trigger a runaway [West Antarctic] ice sheet collapse that would ultimately raise global sea level by about 3 meters," explains Wolovick, a researcher at Princeton University's Department of Geosciences, US. This could have dramatic effects to[…]Read more...