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
Oct 22, 2017 | 04:15 am
“Nothing More than ash and bones.” That grim description of how some victims were found underscores the horror of the wildfires that swept through and devastated Northern California. At least 38 people were killed, including a 14-year-old boy found dead in the driveway of the home he was trying to flee, a 28-year-woman confined to a wheelchair and a couple who recently had celebrated their 75th anniversary. In addition to the lives lost, approximately 5,700 homes and businesses were destroyed, including entire neighborhoods turned into smoldering ruins. Some 220,000 acres, including prized vineyards, have been scorched, and the danger is not over, as some fires are still burning and officials fear the return of winds could spread more catastrophe. Fire season is part of life in California, something that residents know and prepare for after the hot, dry summer months. But the events that began last Sunday have been unprecedented, and so the question that must be confronted is what caused the deadliest week of wildfires in the state’s history. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) pointed the finger at climate change. “With a warming climate, dry weather, and reducing moisture, these kinds of catastrophes have happened and will continue to happen and we have to be ready to mitigate, and it’s going to cost a lot of money,” he said last week. No single fire can be specifically linked to climate change, and certainly other factors, such as increased development or logging and grazing activities, are involved. But scientists say there[…]Read more...
- Climate Change News Oct 22, 2017 | 03:55 am Read more...
Climate Change News
Oct 21, 2017 | 18:33 pm
Last Friday, the European Space Agency Sentinel-5p satellite went into orbit above the earth. Onboard is an imaging spectrometer instrument called TROPOMI, led by SRON (Dutch Space Agency) and KNMI (Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute) to monitor the amount of methane, ozone and other air quality-related pollutants in the atmosphere. There has been quite a buzz around this unique advancement in space, and the valuable data it will provide on methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that accounts for a quarter of the warming our planet is experiencing today. Curbing anthropogenic methane emissions is one of the most efficient and economical options available to slow the rate of warming over the next few decades, while efforts continue to reduce CO2 emissions worldwide. Detecting methane from spaceMethane sources include both natural and manmade emissions from livestock, agriculture, oil & gas operations, and landfills. These sources are distributed around the world and vary widely at local, regional and temporal scales—which makes it challenging to quantify emissions from diverse sources. This is where satellites come into play. They bring together the unique capability of continuously monitoring the entire planet, measuring critical geophysical variables, and mapping change by collecting long-term datasets. The TROPOMI satellite sensor brings significant advances in the monitoring of air pollution in terms of better resolving methane, and other major pollutants affecting air quality (e.g. NO2, SO2, formaldehyde, aerosols). For instance, data from TROPOMI will be available at 7 km x 7 km grids around the world, on a daily basis—which has never[…]Read more...
The Connecticut Green Bank: Innovation in Finance Sparks New Model for Public/Private Investment in Clean EnergyClimate Change News Oct 21, 2017 | 06:35 am
The Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation announced in July that the Connecticut Green Bank had won this year’s Innovations in American Government Award. The Ash Center award recognizes excellence and creativity across a wide range of government initiatives, from technology and public health programs to conservation and education. That Connecticut’s pioneering clean energy financing model won this prestigious award, selected from among thousands of entries, speaks to the important role of states in accelerating the renewable energy transition. Connecticut first established the Green Bank in 2011 through Public Act 11-80 as a key part of the state’s strategy for achieving its energy and climate goals. The main objective was to have cleaner, cheaper, more reliable sources of energy while also creating jobs and spurring local economic development. Leveraging private investment dollars with limited public funds is at the heart of the green bank’s operation. Since its inception, the Connecticut Green Bank has attracted over $6 of private capital for every $1 of public funds committed. Overall, the Connecticut Green Bank has achieved nearly $1.1 billion in clean energy investment across the state. This investment has supported almost 25,000 projects and more than 230 megawatts of clean energy, resulting in greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 3.7 million tons. Over 13,000 jobs have been created, translating to an estimated 7.5 to 20 percent of total job creation in Connecticut, and clean energy prices have declined by about 20 to 30 percent. Among the Green Bank’s most successful[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Oct 21, 2017 | 06:35 am
Working closely with industry partners, University of Delaware researchers have developed a new method for constructing offshore wind farms and proven that it is cheaper, faster, and could make possible offshore wind deployment at a scale and pace able to keep up with the region’s scheduled retirements of nuclear and coal-fired power plants. The researchers calculated that their innovative process will cost up to $1.6 billion less per project than conventional approaches and take half the construction time. “In planning for offshore wind power, the big question is how we generate electricity cost-competitively, and at a scale that is both a relevant replacement for aging power plants and also applicable to climate change,” said the project’s principal investigator, Willett Kempton, professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE). “We’re the first people who have shown the engineering details, step-by-step, how to achieve that.” FindingsThe key insight that allowed Kempton’s team to make such considerable optimizations in cost and deployment speed was that the entire structure, from seafloor mounting to the top of the turbine, can be assembled in one piece in port, moved as a unit, and in one step placed into the sea floor. It may seem like a simple idea, but it was by no means obvious that it would work with existing equipment until completing the detailed engineering and cost analysis. The reference design used 10-megawatt turbines with support structures, together standing twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty and weighing 2500 metric tons,[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Oct 21, 2017 | 05:46 am
Cli-Fi refers to “climate fiction;” it is a term coined by journalist Dan Bloom. These are fictional books that somehow or someway bring real climate change science to the reader. What is really interesting is that Cli-Fi books often present real science in a credible way. They become fun teaching tools. There are some really well known authors such as Paolo Bacigalupi and Margaret Atwood among others. A list of other candidate Cli-Fi novels was provided by Sarah Holding in the Guardian. What makes a Cli-Fi novel good? Well in my opinion, it has to have some real science in it. And it has to get the science right. Second, it has to be fun to read. When done correctly, Cli-Fi can connect people to their world; it can help us understand what future climate may be like, or what current climate effects are. As I write this, we are getting a steady stream of stories out of Puerto Rico the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria. It is hard to imagine the devastation, what life is like without electricity, food, or water. What is life like on an island of 3 million people, each fending for themselves, just trying to survive. Another thing that is hard to imagine is the future. What will the world be like decades from now when Earth temperatures have continued to rise? What will agriculture be like? What will coastal communities be like? What will international relations and armed conflict be like? It is[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Oct 21, 2017 | 05:00 am
Target, one of America’s leading discount store retailers, has this week announced a new climate policy and goals based on the Science-Based Targets initiative, including a commitment to source 100% renewable energy in its domestic operations.Target published its new climate policy and goals on Tuesday, created with the Science-Based Target initiative “in mind” in an effort to “keep making progress” on its existing global and local environmental efforts. As Target highlight in their announcement, the company is a two-time ENERGY STAR partner of the year, and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) 2016 top corporate solar installer in the US.Target’s new climate policy opens by simply stating that “Target acknowledges the scientific consensus that the climate is changing, that our business is contributing to that change, and that our supply chain, operations, and customers will continue to be impacted by the effects of climate change.” As a result, Target is “committed to reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint, and to engaging constructively with industry peers, value chain partners, external stakeholders, and policymakers to help accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.”Read more at Target Announces 100% Renewable Energy Target Amidst New Climate PolicyRead more...
Climate Change News
Oct 21, 2017 | 04:14 am
Following its successful demonstration of the Highway Pilot and Highway Pilot Connect systems (earlier post)—the latter making truck platooning possible—Daimler has demonstrated automated snow removal operations on the site of the former Pferdsfeld airbase. This application of autonomous commercial vehicle operation was based on a specific customer requirement. Under the project name “Automated Airfield Ground Maintenance” (AAGM), four Mercedes-Benz Arocs tractor units demonstrated automated airfield clearing in a remote-controlled convoy. The benefits are obvious: Airfield clearances are hard to predict and thus difficult to plan, especially in winter. This makes snow removal units operated with pinpoint precision by a single vehicle operator to remove snow from runways especially crucial when extreme weather strikes without warning during the winter months, and they require no additional vehicle and staff scheduling. Read more at Daimler Shows Off New Self-Driving Snow Removal TrucksRead more...
- Climate Change News Oct 21, 2017 | 03:55 am Read more...
Climate Change News
Oct 20, 2017 | 02:57 am
Rising temperatures can make the U.S. West dangerously combustible. We saw it this year in California wine country. The deadly fires that swept through California's wine country made one of the state's most destructive fire seasons on record even worse. As global temperatures continue to rise, scientists say the risk of extreme fire seasons across the West is rising, too. Wildfires are hugely complex events, complicated by human activity, including rampant development and decades of fire suppression strategies that left too much dry timber and underbrush for fires to burn. Add the effects of climate change to the mix, and California's already fire-prone landscape grows increasingly combustible. What's the link between fires & climate change?An increasing body of research finds that the hot and dry conditions that created the California drought were brought on in part by human-caused warming. Higher temperatures pull moisture out of soil and vegetation, leaving parched landscapes that can go up in flames with the slightest spark from a downed utility wire, backfiring car or embers from a campfire. California's average temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit during the second half of the 20th century. Altogether this has led to more "fuel aridity"—drier tree canopies, grasses and brush that can burn. "There's a clear climate signal in these fires because of the drought conditions connected to climate change," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA. Hot, Dry Years Becoming More Common in California"As long as there's fuel to burn, your chances of having large[…]Read more...