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
Jan 19, 2019 | 06:43 am
There is a consistently high level of public support across nations for a global carbon tax if the tax policy is carefully designed, according to a survey of people in the United States, India, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Australia. The research was published in Nature. "Imposing a cost on carbon is the most economically efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said economist and lead author Stefano Carattini, an assistant professor in Georgia State University's Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. "Our research shows that a system of harmonized carbon taxes, in which countries agree on the tax rate but maintain control over tax revenues, would be the easiest way to achieve a global carbon price." In the survey, 5,000 respondents from the five countries were asked their opinions on different carbon tax designs and whether they would support a carbon tax to be implemented in their country in 2020, if this was also done in all other countries. The majority of the respondents--from 60 percent in the United States to above 80 percent in India--supported carbon taxes in scenarios where revenues are given back to people or spent on climate projects. "The high level of public support suggests a major rethinking of how we approach carbon taxes and international cooperation," said co-author Steffen Kallbekken, research director at the CICERO Center for International Climate Research in Oslo, Norway. Carattini, Kallbekken and co-author Anton Orlov, a senior researcher at CICERO, simulated the effects of the carbon tax in an[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Jan 19, 2019 | 06:02 am
The fastest-expanding industrial sector on the planet is now electricity storage − a battery boom which heralds an end to the need for fossil fuels. Billions of dollars are being invested worldwide in the developing battery boom, involving research into storage techniques to use the growing surpluses of cheap renewable energy now becoming available. Recent developments in batteries are set to sweep aside the old arguments about renewables being intermittent, dismissing any need to continue building nuclear power plants and burning fossil fuels to act as a back-up when the wind does not blow, or the sun does not shine. Batteries as large as the average family house and controlled by digital technology are being positioned across electricity networks. They are being charged when electricity is in surplus and therefore cheap, and the power they store is resold to the grid at a higher price during peak periods. According to Bloomberg, around US$600 billion will be invested in large-scale batteries over the next 20 years to provide back-up to the grid and power for the expected boom in electric cars. The cost of batteries is also expected to fall by 50% in the next decade, following the same pattern as the drop in cost of solar panels.“The generally-held belief that there was no way to store electricity has been disproved. The battery boom means it is now just a question of finding the easiest and most economic way of doing it”Read more at Battery Boom Aids Climate Change BattleRead more...
Climate Change News
Jan 19, 2019 | 05:10 am
The military walks a fine line between the White House’s official climate denialism and the stark realities of a warming planet. More than a year after President Donald Trump nixed climate change from his administration’s list of national security threats, the Pentagon has released an alarming report detailing how dozens of U.S. military bases are already threatened by rising seas, drought, and wildfire. “The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to Department of Defense missions, operational plans, and installations,” states the 22-page document, which was published Thursday. The congressionally mandated analysis looked at a total of 79 military installations around the country. The Defense Department found that 53 sites are currently vulnerable to repeat flooding. Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, for example, has experienced 14 inches of sea level rise since 1930. Additionally, more than half of the 79 bases are at risk from drought, while nearly half are vulnerable to wildfire. These climate impacts are expected to pose a risk to several other installations over the next two decades, and the report notes that “projected changes will likely be more pronounced at the mid-century mark” if climate adaptation measures are not taken. While the report is a clear recognition of the immediate threat that climate change poses to the nation’s military infrastructure, it makes no mention of the greenhouse gas emissions driving the crisis. It also doesn’t mention some of the most recent climate-related devastation to military bases, including the estimated[…]Read more...
- Climate Change News Jan 19, 2019 | 04:53 am Read more...
Climate Change News
Jan 18, 2019 | 08:15 am
Speaking to the press at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week, Jim Farley, Ford’s president of global markets, said, “Here’s what’s going to happen next to future-proof that global juggernaut of commercial vehicles. We’re going to be electrifying the F-Series, both battery-electric and hybrid. And we’re doing the same for Transit. No transition is perfect. In a way, we had the advantage of watching what happened the first time around. (Customers) want really good stuff,” he added in an obvious reference to Tesla and Elon Musk. Ford Says an Electric F-150 Is ComingRead more...
Climate Change News
Jan 18, 2019 | 07:30 am
Stop & Shop is partnering with Robomart to launch driverless grocery vehicle service in the Greater Boston area beginning in Spring 2019. The vehicles will bring a selection of Stop & Shop produce as well as meal kits and convenience items directly to consumers. Stop & Shop customers in the Boston area can summon a Robomart vehicle with a smartphone app. Upon the Robomart vehicle’s arrival, customers head outside, unlock the vehicle’s doors, then personally select the fruits, vegetables, and other products they would like to purchase. When finished shopping, they just close the doors and send the vehicle on its way. The vehicles’ RFID and computer vision technology automatically records what customers select to provide a checkout-free experience, and receipts are e-mailed within seconds.For decades, consumers had the convenience of their local greengrocer and milkman coming door to door, and we believe that by leveraging driverless technology we can recreate that level of convenience and accessibility. We’re extremely excited to bring our vision to life with Stop & Shop, one of the most pioneering and forward-thinking grocery chains in the world. —Ali Ahmed, Founder & CEO of RobomartAll Robomart vehicles are autonomous, electric, and will be remotely piloted from a Robomart facility. Throughout the journey, the teleoperated vehicles will be restocked with fresh Stop & Shop goods to ensure customers are provided with the best selection for purchase. Read more at Stop & Shop, Robomart to Launch Teleoperated Driverless Grocery Vehicles in Boston this SpringRead more...
Climate Change News
Jan 18, 2019 | 06:45 am
At least 60 percent of wild coffee species are at risk of extinction, and climate change will make wild Arabica endangered, new research shows. Climate Change and deforestation are threatening most of the world's wild coffee species, including Arabica, whose domesticated cousin drips into most morning brews. With rising global temperatures already presenting risks to coffee farmers across the tropics, the findings of two studies published this week should serve as a warning to growers and drinkers everywhere, said Aaron P. Davis, a senior research leader at England's Royal Botanic Gardens and an author of the studies. "We should be concerned about the loss of any species for lots of reasons," Davis said, "but for coffee specifically, I think we should remember that the cup in front of us originally came from a wild source." Read more at Love Coffee? Here's Another Reason to Care About Climate ChangeRead more...
Climate Change News
Jan 18, 2019 | 06:00 am
To stabilize climate and get people healthy, the world needs to overhaul its diet and agriculture systems, the EAT-Lancet commission says. That includes less meat. An ambitious report on the global food system from a commission convened by the prestigious medical journal The Lancet calls for a radical change in food production—or, as one of the authors put it: "Nothing less than a new global agricultural revolution." It's the latest research to emphasize that the futures of the climate and human health are deeply intertwined. In order to meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stabilize the climate, the world needs a "comprehensive shift" in its diet, the authors say. "The dominant diets that the world has been producing and eating for the past 50 years are no longer nutritionally optimal, are a major contributor to climate change, and are accelerating erosion of natural biodiversity," The Lancet's editors write in a commentary accompanying the report, released Wednesday. Read more at Global Commission Calls for a Food Revolution to Solve World’s Climate & Nutrition ProblemsRead more...
Climate Change News
Jan 18, 2019 | 05:39 am
The Earth’s surface is 70 percent water, but even that underestimates how vital ocean health is to our planet’s ability to maintain life. Recent results from scientists around the world only further confirm that our waterworld is in serious danger. Last week, a bombshell study confirmed that the oceans are warming 40 percent faster than many scientists had previously estimated. The finding partially resolved a long-running debate between climate modelers and oceanographers. By measuring the oceans more directly, scientists again came to a now-familiar conclusion: Yes, things really are as bad as we feared. The ocean stores more than 90 percent of all excess heat energy due to the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. From the standpoint of heat, global warming is almost entirely a story of how rapidly the oceans are changing. Warming oceans work to melt polar ice, of course, thereby raising sea levels. But hotter oceans change how the atmosphere works, too. More heat energy in the oceans means more heat energy is available for extreme weather: Downpours of rainfall are happening more often, hurricanes are shifting in frequency and growing in intensity, freak ocean heat waves are spilling over into temperature records on land. Melting Arctic and Antarctic sea ice is also increasing wave height, which is accelerating coastal erosion — worsening the effects of sea-level rise. The now-inevitable loss of nearly all coral reefs — home to a quarter of the ocean’s biodiversity — is the most charismatic of the impacts. The changes[…]Read more...
- Climate Change News Jan 18, 2019 | 05:17 am Read more...