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
May 26, 2018 | 07:30 am
Republicans paid by the fossil fuel industry deny these realities.Last week, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held yet another climate science hearing similar to those from April 2017, February 2017, January 2016, May 2015, June 2014, December 2013, and so on. It seems as though disputing established climate science is House Republicans’ favorite hobby. This time, it was Philip Duffy’s turn to spend two hours playing whack-a-mole with the committee Republicans’ endless supply of long-debunked climate myths. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) claimed that sea level rise is due to the White Cliffs of Dover tumbling into the ocean (yes, really), and his colleagues argued that scientists in the 1970s were predicting global cooling, that Earth is just returning to its “normal temperature,” that Antarctic ice is growing, and sea levels are hardly rising. Self-contradictory sea level rise denialThose last two claims originated from a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) editorial entered into the Congressional record by Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), written by Fred Singer. As the group Ozone Action documented, Singer has been a lifetime contrarian on virtually every scientific subject imaginable - acid rain, nuclear winter, nuclear waste, nuclear war, ozone depletion, secondhand smoke, amphibian population loss, and even minimum wage benefits. In recent decades he’s worked for a plethora of fossil fuel-funded think tanks, denying established climate science. Singer’s WSJ editorial is difficult to follow, largely because it contradicts itself several times, saying:there is also good data showing sea levels are in fact rising at an accelerating[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
May 26, 2018 | 04:10 am
Even holdout Exxon Mobil has analyzed what holding global warming to 2C means for its business. Now the sector needs to invest – or divest – accordingly. Oil companies are under more pressure than ever to reckon with their climate impact, this AGM season. Supermajor Exxon Mobil has published its first assessment of what holding global warming to 2C means for its business, prompted by a shareholder revolt in 2017. Shareholder activists have moved on to target second-tier companies, winning resolutions to make Kinder Morgan and Anadarko follow suit. Several firms pre-empted a vote by agreeing to their demands. In Europe, where most oil majors have already produced 2C scenarios, the conversation is turning from disclosure to action. “We have seen a significant uptick in the number of reports this year,” Robert Schuwerk of Carbon Tracker told Climate Home News. Analyzing the implications of 2C, the upper warming limit in the Paris Agreement, is “becoming normalized as a concept”, he said. There is not yet a standardized approach, though, making it hard to compare companies: “I think that is going to become a focus.” By each choosing methods to flatter their business plans, firms are perpetuating collective denial. Globally, the vast majority of oil and gas reserves need to stay in the ground to limit temperature rise to 2C. That implies some producers will lose out. But, as a Carbon Tracker report this week highlighted, corporate scenario analyses show everyone winning. “The primary risk is over-investment in a resource base, bringing on a[…]Read more...
- Climate Change News May 26, 2018 | 03:50 am Read more...
Climate Change News
May 25, 2018 | 05:00 am
Add warming temperatures to the pile of problems. Forests in the northeastern U.S. are lush and diverse. Towering oaks in southern Connecticut give way to majestic sugar maples in Maine....Tony D’Amato, director of the forestry program at the University of Vermont, says forests in the region provide beauty and support the economy. But they’re under pressure from many threats, such as deforestation for development, logging, non-native species, over-browsing by deer, and forest diseases. D’Amato: “As you start to make a list of all the things that are threatening our forests, it’s hard not to get a little bit concerned.” Climate change will only add more stress. For example, seeds from some trees need snow to germinate. But as the region gets warmer and wetter, there may be less snowpack. That also leaves young tree roots vulnerable to freezing. D’Amato: “Climate change in its own right is quite daunting, but when you put it on top of everything else that’s affecting our forests, it’s really a challenging long-term dilemma that many managers and conservation groups have to deal with.” Read original at Climate Change Is Putting Extra Pressure on New England's ForestsRead more...
Climate Change News
May 25, 2018 | 04:10 am
Study explains blocking phenomenon that has baffled forecasters. A study published May 24 in Science offers an explanation for a mysterious and sometimes deadly weather pattern in which the jet stream, the global air currents that circle the Earth, stalls out over a region. Much like highways, the jet stream has a capacity, researchers said, and when it's exceeded, blockages form that are remarkably similar to traffic jams -- and climate forecasters can use the same math to model them both. The deadly 2003 European heat wave, California's 2014 drought, and the swing of Superstorm Sandy in 2012 that surprised forecasters -- all of these were caused by a weather phenomenon known as "blocking," in which the jet stream meanders, stopping weather systems from moving eastward. Scientists have known about it for decades, almost as long as they've known about the jet stream -- first discovered by pioneering University of Chicago meteorologist Carl-Gustaf Rossby, in fact -- but no one had a good explanation for why it happens. "Blocking is notoriously difficult to forecast, in large part because there was no compelling theory about when it forms and why," said study coauthor Noboru Nakamura, a professor in the Department of the Geophysical Sciences. Nakamura and then-graduate student Clare S.Y. Huang were studying the jet stream, trying to determine a clear set of measurements for blocking in order to better analyze the phenomenon. One of their new metrics was a term that measured the jet stream's meander. Looking over the math,[…]Read more...
- Climate Change News May 25, 2018 | 03:50 am Read more...
Climate Change News
May 24, 2018 | 19:18 pm
Massachusetts and Rhode Island today selected two offshore wind projects for development, securing a total of 1.2 GW of offshore generating capacity along the East Coast. “With today’s landmark decisions, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are ready to pioneer large-scale offshore wind development that will light the way for our industry and nation,” Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, said in a statement. “With world-class wind resources, infrastructure and offshore energy expertise, the U.S. is primed to scale up this industry and lead it. Becoming a world leader for offshore wind will open tremendous new opportunities for U.S. workers, factories, and ships throughout our coastal states.” Vineyard Wind won a competitive bid in Massachusetts with a 800-MW offshore wind proposal that includes a generator lead line. Massachusetts law requires the state’s electric distribution companies to obtain 1.6 GW of offshore wind energy by 2027. A request for proposals from the state called for long-term contracts for offshore wind generation and associated renewable energy credits totaling 400 MW, but bidders were able to submit proposals for up to about 800 MW. Bids were evaluated and selected by the state’s distribution companies and the Department of Energy Resources. “Vineyard Wind is proud to be selected to lead the new Massachusetts offshore wind industry into the future,” Lars Thaaning Pedersen, CEO of Vineyard Wind, said. Thaaning said Vineyard Wind is grateful for the time and commitment shown by many stakeholders, including Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton and Massachusetts[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
May 24, 2018 | 19:04 pm
While the Trump administration generally avoids discussion of climate change, it is participating in a coalition to promote “clean, reliable” nuclear power. The US, Canada and Japan are to create a coalition aimed at promoting nuclear power as a carbon-free energy source around the world. The UK is also taking part, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) confirmed to Climate Home News on Wednesday. The Nuclear Innovation: Clean Energy (Nice) partnership will be launched on Thursday at a ministerial summit being held in Copenhagen and Malmö. In a blog post on his department’s website, US deputy energy secretary Dan Brouillette called for countries to work together for a “Nice Future”. “If the world is serious about reducing emissions and growing economies, then the ministerial must consider all options when it comes to carbon-free power, including clean, reliable nuclear energy,” he said. Read more at US Launches Nuclear Initiative to Cut Carbon with Canada, Japan, UKRead more...
Climate Change News
May 24, 2018 | 18:49 pm
Hardly a day goes by without a research company releasing yet another report forecasting the future of electric vehicles and all related industries, oil included. Some of these are skeptical, but most predict a bright future for electric cars. The latest is no exception: a UK-based company, Aurora Energy Research, has projected that the adoption of electric cars could wipe out as much as US$21 trillion in revenues for the oil, gas, and coal industry by 2040. In oil, Aurora Energy Research predicts that revenues could fall from US$1.5 trillion in 2016 to US$1.1 trillion in 2040 on the back of fast EV adoption combined with major improvements in energy efficiencies. Meanwhile, oil prices could plummet to as little as US$32 a barrel. This is what could happen under a “Burnout” scenario developed by the research firm that envisages fast growth in EV adoption and equally fast growth in electricity demand on the back of digital tech use driven by the expansion of the Internet of Things. Read more at EV Revolution Could Wipe Out $21 Trillion in Oil RevenueRead more...
Climate Change News
May 24, 2018 | 18:35 pm
Hot oceans fueled Hurricane Harvey, generating more intense rainfall. Last summer, the United states was pummeled with three severe hurricanes in rapid succession. It was a truly awesome display of the power of weather and the country is still reeling from the effects. In the climate community, there has been years of research into the effect that human-caused global warming has on these storms – both their frequency and their power. The prevailing view is that in a warming world, there will likely be fewer such storms, but the storms that form will be more severe. Some research, however, concludes that there will be both more storms and more severe ones. More generally, because there is more heat, there is more activity, which can be manifested in several ways. Regardless, there is very little doubt that a warmer planet can create more powerful storms. The reason is that hurricanes feed off of warmer ocean water. In order to form these storms, oceans have to be above about 26°C (about 80°F). With waters that hot, and with strong winds, there is a rapid evaporation of moisture from the ocean. The resulting water vapor enters into the storm, providing the energy to power the storm as the water vapor condenses and falls out of the storm as rain. Read more at Global Warming Made Hurricane Harvey More DestructiveRead more...