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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

  • More GOP Lawmakers Bucking Their Party on Climate Change

    Climate Change News Aug 21, 2017 | 07:24 am

    More GOP Lawmakers Bucking Their Party on Climate Change But if the Republican Party is undergoing a shift on climate, it is at its earliest, most incremental stage. While President Donald Trump continues to dismantle Obama-era climate policies, an unlikely surge of Republican lawmakers has begun taking steps to distance themselves from the GOP’s hard line on climate change. The House Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan backwater when it formed early last year, has more than tripled in size since January, driven in part by Trump’s decision in June to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord. And last month, 46 Republicans joined Democrats to defeat an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill that would have deleted a requirement that the Defense Department prepare for the effects of climate change. The willingness of some Republicans to buck their party on climate change could help burnish their moderate credentials ahead of the 2018 elections.  Of the 26 Republican caucus members, all but five represent districts targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee next year. But it has also buoyed activists who view the House members’ positioning as a rare sign of GOP movement on climate change. “Strangely, President Trump helped us,” said Bob Inglis, a former Republican congressman whose views on climate change contributed to his defeat in a South Carolina primary in 2010. “His withdrawal from Paris dramatically increased the number of [internet] searches about climate change and increased interest … People are getting more and more uncomfortable with the nuttiness of these positions.” In a[…]

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  • It’s Time to Start Talking About “Negative” Carbon Dioxide Emissions - by David Robert

    Climate Change News Aug 21, 2017 | 07:13 am

    It’s Time to Start Talking About “Negative” Carbon Dioxide Emissions - by David Robert We have to bury gigatons of carbon to slow climate change.  We’re not even close to ready.The world’s nations have agreed, almost unanimously, to try to limit the rise of global average temperature to 2 degrees Celsius or less over preindustrial levels. Is that still possible?  Climate campaigners, scientists, and politicians frequently insist it is.  All we need, they say, is political will. But that’s not all we need.  There’s something else, something we talk about much less.You see, in order to have a reasonable chance of hitting the 2C target, modeling shows that humanity must go carbon negative in the mid- to late 21st century.  Here are two scenarios developed by Oil Change International, one that offers a 66 percent chance of hitting 2 degrees, one that shows a 50 percent chance of hitting 1.5 degrees: As you can see, for a likely chance of hitting 2C, emissions have to go below zero in 2065. Going below zero means removing more carbon from the atmosphere than we are emitting, by capturing it and burying it beneath the earth’s surface. If we do not allow negative emissions into the models, they show that to hit our target, emissions have to decline at an absolutely ludicrous rate:Absent a meteor wiping out advanced civilization, that’s not going to happen.  So, negative emissions it is! That means we must start burying and sequestering carbon (in some models as early as 2020) and rapidly scale up until we are burying more than we’re emitting.[…]

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  •   Saturday, Aug 19

    Climate Change News Aug 21, 2017 | 05:07 am

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  • Electric Cars:  The Death of the Internal Combustion Engine - The Economist

    Climate Change News Aug 21, 2017 | 05:05 am

    Electric Cars:  The Death of the Internal Combustion Engine - The Economist It had a good run.  But the end is in sight for the machine that changed the world. The internal combustion engine's days are numbered.  Rapid gains in battery technology favor electric motors instead. ... The Chevy Bolt has a range of 238 miles (383km); Tesla fans recently drove a Model S more than 621 miles (1,000km) on a single charge.  UBS, a bank, reckons the “total cost of ownership” of an electric car will reach parity with a petrol one next year—albeit at a loss to its manufacturer.  It optimistically predicts electric vehicles will make up 14% of global car sales by 2025, up from 1% today.  Others have more modest forecasts, but are hurriedly revising them upwards as batteries get cheaper and better—the cost per kilowatt-hour has fallen from $1,000 in 2010 to $130-200 today.  Regulations are tightening, too.  Last month Britain joined a lengthening list of electric-only countries, saying that all new cars must be zero-emission by 2050.The shift from fuel and pistons to batteries and electric motors is unlikely to take that long.  The first death rattles of the internal combustion engine are already reverberating around the world—and many of the consequences will be welcome. To gauge what lies ahead, think how the internal combustion engine has shaped modern life. The rich world was rebuilt for motor vehicles, with huge investments in road networks and the invention of suburbia, along with shopping malls and drive-through restaurants.  Roughly 85% of American workers commute by car.  Car making[…]

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  • Today’s GOP Agenda Is Unpopular and Indefensible. - by David Roberts

    Climate Change News Aug 20, 2017 | 06:08 am

    Today’s GOP Agenda Is Unpopular and Indefensible. - by David Roberts The New York Times had a big story on the the 11th about EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s propensity to operate in secret.  It offers a detailed and damning review of the evidence, but it stops short of drawing the broader conclusion:  namely, that the approach of serving industry under cover of secrecy is not idiosyncratic to Pruitt, nor is it distinctively Trumpian. Rather, it is the standard approach of today’s GOP, as reflected in such recent initiatives as the failed health care bill.  It is, in fact, the only approach possible to advance an agenda that is unpopular and intellectually indefensible. Before painting that bigger picture, though, let’s look more closely at Pruitt’s brief but memorable stint at the EPA so far. Pruitt is radically remaking the EPA, mostly in secretThings got off to an inauspicious start in February, when a story at E&E revealed that Pruitt was requesting a full-time, around-the-clock security detail — not the first act of a man confident in his agenda. In May the New Republic’s Emily Atkin, noting Pruitt’s refusal to meet with media or make his schedule public, asked, “What is Scott Pruitt hiding?”  Another story in May found that political leadership at the EPA had begun “occasionally inserting new data and other information into public statements without final review from career policy specialists,” data and information officials inside EPA describe as “misleading and incompatible with extensive agency research.” Another covered Pruitt firing several scientists from the agency’s science review board, planning to[…]

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  • Hot Days Put the People Who Grow Your Food in Danger

    Climate Change News Aug 20, 2017 | 04:28 am

    Hot Days Put the People Who Grow Your Food in Danger Heatstroke can be deadly if not treated quickly. The luscious tomatoes and juicy peaches in your local grocery store were most likely picked by hand to prevent bruising.  But that personal touch comes at a price.  On hot days, the workers who pick these crops are at risk of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and other heat related illnesses. Linda McCauley, a professor and dean of the Emory University School of Nursing, says heat-related illness can sneak up on someone who is unaware of the signs.  So it’s important to recognize the early symptoms in order to prevent serious complications or even death. McCauley:  “So you’re working in a field and you’ve started having a headache and then all of a sudden you’re starting to feel dizzy and you feel like you’re going to pass out.” Once someone feels light-headed, quick action is critical. McCauley:  “In general, the workers don’t have any sense about how dangerous a heatstroke is – in that you have minutes.  You don’t have hours.” Heat stroke can be deadly, but it’s also avoidable.  So educating workers and employers about how to recognize the symptoms is vital. And putting programs in place to protect workers will become even more important as the climate warms. Read original at Hot Days Put the People Who Grow Your Food in Danger

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  •   Saturday, Aug 19

    Climate Change News Aug 20, 2017 | 04:15 am

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  • Analysis:  Why US Carbon Emissions Have Fallen 14% Since 2005

    Climate Change News Aug 19, 2017 | 10:15 am

    Analysis:  Why US Carbon Emissions Have Fallen 14% Since 2005 Before 2005 US carbon emissions were marching upwards year after year, with little sign of slowing down. After this point, they fell quickly, declining 14% from their peak by the end of 2016. Researchers have given a number of different reasons for this marked turnaround.  Some have argued that it was mainly due to natural gas and, to a lesser extent, wind both replacing coal for generating electricity.  Others have suggested that the declines were driven by the financial crisis and its lasting effects on the economy. Here Carbon Brief presents an analysis of the causes of the decline in US CO2 since 2005. There is no single cause of reductions.  Rather, they were driven by a number of factors, including a large-scale transition from coal to gas, a large increase in wind power, a reduction in industrial energy use, and changes in transport patterns. Declines in US CO2 have persisted despite an economic recovery from the financial crisis. While the pace of reductions may slow, many of these factors will continue to push down emissions, notwithstanding the inclinations of the current administration. Carbon Brief’s analysis shows that in 2016…Overall, CO2 emissions were around 18% lower than they would have been, if underlying factors had not changed, and 14% lower than their 2005 peak.Coal-to-gas switching in the power sector is the largest driver, accounting for 33% of the emissions reduction in 2016.*Wind generation was responsible for 19% of the emissions reduction.Solar power was responsible for 3%.Reduced electricity use – mostly[…]

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  • Some Democrats See Tax Overhaul as a Path to Taxing Carbon - The New York Times

    Climate Change News Aug 19, 2017 | 09:48 am

    Some Democrats See Tax Overhaul as a Path to Taxing Carbon - The New York Times With a sweeping overhaul of the tax code on the horizon, two Senate Democrats believe this is the moment to broach the third rail of climate change policy: a carbon tax. The plan by the senators, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Brian Schatz of Hawaii, to level a $49 per metric ton fee on greenhouse gas emissions is widely acknowledged as a long shot.  But the lawmakers, along with climate activists and a cadre of conservative supporters, insist the tax reform is a way to create bipartisan support. The senators propose to use a portion of the estimated $2.1 trillion they anticipate in carbon tax revenue over the first 10 years to reduce the top marginal corporate tax income rate, something the White House has called for. They also hope to have an ally in President Trump’s economic adviser, Gary D. Cohn, who met in February with a prominent group of Republicans advocating a similar plan. No Republican lawmaker has signed on to the Senate measure.  Mr. Trump, who routinely proclaims his affection for coal, during the presidential campaign flatly rejected via Twitter a suggestion that he might put a price on carbon pollution.  The senators steering the effort admit they haven’t even broached a carbon tax directly with members of the administration, and the White House has distanced itself from the policy via Twitter a suggestion that he might put a price on carbon pollution. The senators steering the effort admit they haven’t even broached a carbon tax[…]

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  • Wind and Solar Power Are Saving Americans an Astounding Amount of Money -- by David Roberts

    Climate Change News Aug 19, 2017 | 09:00 am

    Wind and Solar Power Are Saving Americans an Astounding Amount of Money -- by David Roberts Not getting sick and dying from pollution is worth quite a bit, it turns out. Wind and solar power are subsidized by just about every major country in the world, either directly or indirectly through tax breaks, mandates, and regulations. The main rationale for these subsidies is that wind and solar produce, to use the economic term of art, “positive externalities” — benefits to society that are not captured in their market price.  Specifically, wind and solar power reduce pollution, which reduces sickness, missed work days, and early deaths.  Every wind farm or solar field displaces some other form of power generation (usually coal or natural gas) that would have polluted more. Subsidies for renewables are meant to remedy this market failure, to make the market value of renewables more accurately reflect their total social value. This raises an obvious question:  Are renewable energy subsidies doing the job?  That is to say, are they accurately reflecting the size and nature of the positive externalities? That turns out to be a devilishly difficult question to answer.  Quantifying renewable energy’s health and environmental benefits is super, super complicated.  Happily, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab have just produced the most comprehensive attempt to date.  It contains all kinds of food for thought, both in its numbers and its uncertainties. (Quick side note:  Just about every country in the world also subsidizes fossil fuels.  Globally, fossil fuels receive far more subsidies than renewables, despite the lack of any policy rationale whatsoever for such[…]

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