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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.

Link to article

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.

 

Scott

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.

Scott

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.

All,

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.

Scott

  • House Republicans OK Measure Asking Military to Study Climate Change

    Climate Change News Jun 29, 2017 | 07:15 am

    House Republicans OK Measure Asking Military to Study Climate Change A year ago, the U.S. House tried to block the military from preparing for climate change. Now, several GOP members have voted to support studying the security risks. The Republican-led House Armed Services Committee took a quietly momentous step Wednesday by passing an amendment requesting a Defense Department report on the security risks posed by climate change. The importance lies less in the details of the measure—an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act—than in the political statement from a body that only one year ago tried to block the military from spending money to prepare for climate change. "The truth is that the department can study this on their own, as they have a wide berth when it comes to assessing threats to national security," said Rep. Jim Langevin, a Democrat from Rhode Island and the amendment's sponsor.  "But this amendment shows that Congress has the department's back.  It signals that we are not naive to the dangers of climate change to our defense strategy." The amendment asks the Defense Department to issue a report within a year identifying the 10 military sites most vulnerable to the many manifestations of climate change, and what steps are needed to protect them.  It also asks for a discussion of how climate change will affect top commanders of fielded forces who may have to deal with instability brought on by a climate crisis. The military has conducted extensive studies on the risks and impacts of climate change to its operations for more[…]

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  • Half a Loaf:  Lawmakers Vote to Keep Some Energy Funds Trump Would Cut

    Climate Change News Jun 29, 2017 | 06:30 am

    Half a Loaf:  Lawmakers Vote to Keep Some Energy Funds Trump Would Cut The House subcommittee’s bill would still kill ARPA-E but restores some funding for science and renewable energy. Budget writers in the House of Representatives said Wednesday they were willing to support some cuts to renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, but they wouldn't approve all of President Donald Trump's proposed deep slashes to the Department of Energy's budget. The House Appropriations energy subcommittee met to mark up their bill for funding the department.  The bill represents the first time Congressional purse-string holders have formally clarified their priorities and is the first step in a long process, but it suggests that Republicans will support many of Trump's cuts to clean energy. Trump's proposal, released last month, calls for cutting the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E—the government's incubator for clean energy technologies—by 93 percent.  The House spending bill allocates nothing. The draft bill endorsed by the subcommittee sets the overall agency budget at $37.6 billion, giving it about $209 million less than in fiscal 2017, but $3.65 billion above Trump's request, according to Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), the subcommittee's chairman.  The bill would have to be approved by the full Appropriations panel before going to the House floor and also would have to be reconciled with any action by the Senate. "Increases over last year are targeted to those areas where they are needed most—-to provide for our nation's defense and to support our nation's infrastructure," Simpson said.  "The bill recognizes the administration's effort to reduce federal spending and the size[…]

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  • Mission 2020:  A New Global Strategy to ‘Rapidly’ Reduce Carbon Emissions

    Climate Change News Jun 29, 2017 | 05:45 am

    Mission 2020:  A New Global Strategy to ‘Rapidly’ Reduce Carbon Emissions In April a new global initiative called Mission 2020 was launched by Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief who oversaw the signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change in late 2015. The aim of Mission 2020 is to bring “new urgency” to the “global climate conversation” with a call to begin “rapidly declining” global greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Today, in a co-authored commentary published in the journal Nature, Figueres sets out further details about Mission 2020’s six central calls to action.  The commentary is endorsed by 61 signatories, which include climate scientists as well as a range of NGO, religious, political, and business leaders. Emissions peakFigueres and colleagues argue that, if global warming is to be limited to between 1.5C and 2C by 2100, global emissions must peak before 2020 and then begin to rapidly decline. Over the past three years, global CO2 emissions have leveled off, driven in part by large declines in coal use in China and the US.  While it is likely too early to say for certain if CO2 emissions have peaked, there is a reason to be cautiously optimistic. However, peaking global emissions is in many ways the easy part.  Scientists say that to stave off potentially dangerous levels of warming later in the century, global emissions need to decline quickly to near-zero. Read more at Mission 2020:  A New Global Strategy to ‘Rapidly’ Reduce Carbon Emissions

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  • Concurrent Hot and Dry Summers More Common in Future

    Climate Change News Jun 29, 2017 | 05:00 am

    Concurrent Hot and Dry Summers More Common in Future According to ... statistics ... extreme climate events, similar to the heatwave that affected large areas of western and central Europe in the summer of 2003, are only supposed to occur around every 100 years.  But as global warming pushes average temperatures higher, the frequency of several extreme weather events is set to increase, experts claim.Concurrent extremes more frequentPerhaps the statisticians need to check their figures.  Researchers have traditionally studied extreme climate events such as heatwaves and drought in isolation, producing separate forecasts of how frequently each one is likely to occur.  But when these extremes coincide -- a combination of hot and dry summers, for example -- their impact is far greater.ETH researcher Jakob Zscheischler and Professor Sonia Seneviratne from the ETH Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science have now calculated the probability of compound climate extremes, as the co-occurrence of severe heat and drought generally depends on the correlation between temperature and precipitation in the summer.  The results of their study have just been published in the academic journal Science Advances.Co-occurrence as much as five times greater than expectedIn their study, Zscheischler and Seneviratne have calculated that the combination of heat and drought is as much as two to four times more frequent than if these two extreme climate events are studied in isolation.  In America's mid-west, for instance, the probability of this combination occurring is even up to five times higher.Calculating the probability of these two extremes separately and then combining them is not the same as[…]

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  • Sunnier Skies Driving Greenland Surface Melt

    Climate Change News Jun 29, 2017 | 04:15 am

    Sunnier Skies Driving Greenland Surface Melt In the past two decades, the Greenland ice sheet has become the biggest single contributor to rising sea levels, mostly from melt across its vast surface.  That surface melt is, in turn, driven mostly by an uptick in clear, sunny summer skies, not just rising air temperatures, a new study finds. What’s causing the decline in cloud cover isn’t yet clear, but the work shows that understanding what’s behind the trend and developing ways to better represent clouds in global climate models will be crucial to predicting how much Greenland will melt in the future. The nearly two-mile-thick Greenland ice sheet covers an area about three times the size of Texas and holds enough ice to raise global sea levels by 23 feet if it were all to melt.  While that is unlikely to happen anytime soon, even smaller-scale melt can raise sea levels to the point that large swaths of coastal land will be claimed by the oceans by the end of the century, including many major cities, such as Miami and Shanghai. Global sea level has already risen by about a foot since 1900.  Greenland’s contribution to that rise has jumped since the 1990s, accounting for about 30 percent of sea level rise since then. While some of the water Greenland is flushing out to sea comes from warming ocean waters lapping away at the glaciers that drain the ice sheet, most is due to the melt across its surface during the summer.Read more at Sunnier Skies Driving Greenland[…]

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  •   Wednesday, June 28

    Climate Change News Jun 29, 2017 | 02:55 am

      Wednesday, June 28

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  • States Betting on Giant Batteries to Cut Carbon

    Climate Change News Jun 28, 2017 | 22:29 pm

    States Betting on Giant Batteries to Cut Carbon Some states and electric power companies are rolling out a new weapon against fossil fuels — giant batteries. A growing number of states are requiring large batteries to be used to store electricity to help expand wind and solar power.  The trend is catching on quickly as at least three states have created energy storage targets or incentives so far this year.Lawmakers in New York passed a bill last week requiring the state to create an energy storage target. Nevada passed a bill incentivizing energy storage in May, and Maryland passed an energy storage tax credit in April.  Those measures follow California, Oregon, and Massachusetts, which have mandates for electricity storage in batteries. Electric power plants have historically been America’s largest source of carbon pollution contributing to climate change.  Today, electric power plants that run on both coal and natural gas emit large volumes of carbon dioxide — the primary cause of global warming. But as more wind farms and solar power plants are built to help reduce climate pollution, electric power companies encounter one of the fundamental challenges with renewables:  The flow of electricity from wind and solar farms isn’t steady — it fluctuates as the wind blows and the sun sets. Sometimes excess energy they produce goes to waste. “We only produce solar electricity when the sun shines.  We consume energy 24/7.  We need to have means of supplying the electricity to consumers 24 hours a day.  That’s one of the basic roles of energy storage,” said Janet[…]

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  • Even Boeing-747 Tanker Jets Can’t Win Our Total War on Fires

    Climate Change News Jun 28, 2017 | 16:40 pm

    Even Boeing-747 Tanker Jets Can’t Win Our Total War on Fires The more effectively we suppress fires, the worse they become. As climate change makes the world more combustible, we need a new approach. Aerial fire fighting is a critical but expensive tool for managing wildfire.  Because wildfires will become more frequent and severe due to climate change there is no question we need aerial fire fighting technology – particularly helicopters and specially trained crews that can be inserted into remote areas.  But uncritical belief and investment in aerial fire fighting technologies alone is a road to fiscal ruin.  Thoughtlessly investing in aerial fire-fighting will not meet the formidable fire management challenges that are being amplified by climate change. A fraction of the US investments in aerial fire fighting redirected to preventative fire management, such as planned burning and strategic vegetation thinning, retrofitting poorly designed housing and training ground crews could yield a much bigger bang for the buck, as well as providing year round employment for rural communities.  The media optics of aerial drop of bright red fire retardant from a thundering fire bomber comes at considerable environment and social costs and engenders a dangerously false sense of security in a rapidly warming and more combustible world. Read more at Even Boeing-747 Tanker Jets Can’t Win Our Total War on Fires

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  • We Are Heading for the Warmest Climate in Half a Billion Years, Says New Study

    Climate Change News Jun 28, 2017 | 04:15 am

    We Are Heading for the Warmest Climate in Half a Billion Years, Says New Study Carbon dioxide concentrations are heading towards values not seen in the past 200m years.  The sun has also been gradually getting stronger over time.  Put together, these facts mean the climate may be heading towards warmth not seen in the past half a billion years. A lot has happened on Earth since 500,000,000BC – continents, oceans and mountain ranges have come and gone, and complex life has evolved and moved from the oceans onto the land and into the air.  Most of these changes occur on very long timescales of millions of years or more. However, over the past 150 years global temperatures have increased by about 1℃, ice caps and glaciers have retreated, polar sea-ice has melted, and sea levels have risen. Some will point out that Earth’s climate has undergone similar changes before.  So what’s the big deal? Scientists can seek to understand past climates by looking at the evidence locked away in rocks, sediments and fossils.  What this tells us is that yes, the climate has changed in the past, but the current speed of change is highly unusual.  For instance, carbon dioxide hasn’t been added to the atmosphere as rapidly as today for at least the past 66m years. In fact, if we continue on our current path and exploit all convention fossil fuels, then as well as the rate of CO₂ emissions, the absolute climate warming is also likely to be unprecedented in at least the past 420m years.  That’s according to a new study[…]

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  •   Tuesday, June 27

    Climate Change News Jun 28, 2017 | 03:55 am

      Tuesday, June 27

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