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 Dec 15, 2017 | 05:02 am Read more...
Climate Change News
Dec 14, 2017 | 19:53 pm
Abi-Samra has more than 35 years of experience in power generation, transmission, distribution, retail, and end-use energy applications. He is president of Electric Power & Energy Consulting and an adjunct professor with UC San Diego. He also is the author of a new book Power Grid Resiliency for Adverse Conditions (Artech House, 2017). The book is part technical reference guide and part history lesson. In it, Abi-Samra describes the impacts of heat waves, ice storms, and hurricanes on grid operations through case studies from North America, Europe, and Asia....Synchophasors measure the instantaneous voltage, current, and frequency at specific locations on the grid, offering operators a near-real-time picture of what’s happening on the system, which lets them take action to prevent power outages. Load shedding involves the short-term interruption of power to one or more end users to allow the grid to rebalance itself. Many industrial-scale power users trade off the occasional loss of power for lower power prices, known as “interruptible rates.” The early 2000s were also marked by hurricanes that hit Florida and Louisiana particularly hard. Widespread loss of transmission and distribution poles led to efforts to replace wooden poles with steel and concrete. Further hardening came after Hurricane Katrina devastated substations, leading to investments to elevate them above storm surge levels. Superstorm Sandy in 2012 exposed storm vulnerabilities in the Northeast, particularly the near-impossibility of insulating a system from damage in the face of fearsome winds and flooding. The idea that resulted from Sandy was to “allow the[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Dec 14, 2017 | 19:43 pm
The emissions trading scheme will initially cover only the power sector, not heavy industry as planned, but will nonetheless become the biggest in the world. China’s long-awaited nationwide emissions trading scheme (ETS) will be officially launched on 19 December, starting with the power sector only, according to a document from National Development Reform Commission (NDRC). It represents a scaling back from the original plan for eight economic sectors to take part in the carbon market: petrochemicals, chemicals, building materials, iron and steel, non-ferrous metals, paper, power, and aviation. Nonetheless, it will instantly overtake the EU’s carbon market to become the world’s largest. The power sector accounts for 46% of China’s carbon dioxide emissions, of which an estimated 39% will be covered by the ETS, according to data from World Resource Institute. Explaining the change, Chinese officials said some industrial sectors did not have strong statistical foundations, and the system would involve constant testing and continuous adjustments. Carbon futures trading will not be available at the launch stage of the scheme, Xie Zhenhua, China’s special representative for climate change, said during the UN climate conference in Bonn last month. It is intended to create a cost for emitting carbon, not a platform for market speculation, he said. An official at NDRC who asked not to be named said the conservative approach reflected the importance leaders attached to the overall stability of the country’s financial markets. Read more at China to Launch Nationwide Carbon Market Next Week: OfficialsRead more...
Climate Change News
Dec 14, 2017 | 07:24 am
This week, Gatehouse Media published a long-form investigative report called “In the Shadow of Wind Farms” claiming that wind energy has caused negative health effects for residents living near wind turbines — a claim that flies in the face of actual science. GateHouse Media’s anti-wind article leans almost entirely on anecdotal evidence compiled during its six-month long project that included interviews with dozens of people who claim negative outcomes from living near wind farms. Meanwhile, in the realm of scientific facts, the American Wind Energy Alliance, the main trade group representing the wind power industry, points to 25 scientific reviews that document the safety of wind farms for human health and the environment. One health researcher has told DeSmog the GateHouse article was “simply irresponsible journalism” and actually had “potential to exacerbate the experience of anxiety and related health effects.” Although GateHouse, a syndication outfit that publishes 130 daily newspapers in 36 states, briefly mentions the fact that scientific evidence for these claims is nearly non-existent, it plows ahead with a lengthy article full of anecdotes and unsubstantiated claims that aren’t supported by real science. How this piece got published in its horribly one-sided (anti-wind) approach is a question worthy of many letters to the editor. Whether GateHouse — which is notoriously quiet when asked questions by other media outlets about its operations — will answer or attempt to defend this attack piece, time will tell. But there is no hiding that the anti-wind movement is clearly coordinated, which even[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Dec 14, 2017 | 06:49 am
Approaching the second half of the century, the United States is likely to experience increases in the number of days with extreme heat, the frequency and duration of heat waves, and the length of the growing season. In response, it is anticipated that societal, agricultural and ecological needs will increase the demand on already-strained natural resources like water and energy. University of Illinois researchers have developed new, high-resolution climate models that may help policymakers mitigate these effects at a local level. In a paper published in the journal Earth's Future, atmospheric sciences professor Donald Wuebbles, graduate student Zach Zobel, and Argonne National Laboratory scientists Jiali Wang and Rao Kotamarthi demonstrate how increased-resolution modeling can improve future climate projections. Many climate models use a spatial resolution of hundreds of kilometers. This approach is suitable for global-scale models that run for centuries into the future, but they fail to capture small-scale land and weather features that influence local atmospheric events, the researchers said. "Our new models work at a spatial resolution of 12 km, allowing us to examine localized changes in the climate system across the continental U.S.," Wuebbles said. "It is the difference between being able to resolve something as small as Champaign County versus the entire state of Illinois -- it's a big improvement." The study looked at two different future greenhouse gas output projections -- one "business as usual" scenario where fossil fuel consumption remains on its current trajectory and one that implies a significant reduction in consumption by[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Dec 14, 2017 | 05:10 am
The warming Arctic could put a serious dent in wind energy production. There’s a pretty steep temperature difference between the North Pole and the equator. But that difference — which fuels atmospheric energy, powering storm systems and the breeze — is shrinking, and it’s altering the distribution of wind energy resources around the globe. This could put significant strain on wind power production in the United States, Europe, and Asia, a study published Monday in the journal Nature suggests. The study shows that warming temperatures could result in a 17 percent drop in wind power in the U.S. and a 10 percent decline in the U.K. by 2100. On the upside, wind power in Australia, Brazil, and West Africa could actually increase. Read more at The Warming Arctic Could Put a Serious Dent in Wind Energy Production.Read more...
- Climate Change News Dec 14, 2017 | 04:50 am Read more...
Climate Change News
Dec 13, 2017 | 21:24 pm
“The floods of the future are likely to be much greater than what our current infrastructure is designed for”For the US, harder rain is on the way: America’s summer thunderstorms are about to get stormier. Later this century, the notorious mesoscale convective storms of middle America will not just darken US skies: they will dump as much as 80% more water on the farms, highways and cities of the 48 contiguous states. Mesoscale thunderstorms cover an area of around 100 kilometers: these have been on the increase, both in frequency and intensity, in the last 35 years and new research suggests that, as the world warms, their frequency could triple. “The combination of more intense rainfall and the spreading of heavy rainfall over larger areas means that we will face a higher flood risk than previously predicted,” said Andreas Prein, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the US, who led the study. “If a whole catchment area gets hammered by high rain rates, that creates a much more serious situation than a thunderstorm dropping intense rain over parts of the catchment. This implies that the flood guidelines which are used in planning and building infrastructure are probably too conservative.” Thunderstorms already cost the US around $20bn a year in flash floods, landslides, debris flows, high winds, and hail. Dr Prein and his colleagues report in Nature Climate Change that what they call “observed extreme daily precipitation” increased in all parts of the US from 1958 to 2012: that is[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Dec 13, 2017 | 21:03 pm
Climate scientists say the magnitude and rate of sea ice loss this century is unprecedented in 1,500 years and issue a warning on the impacts of a changing climate. The Arctic experienced its second-warmest year on record in 2017, behind only 2016, and not even a cooler summer and fall could help the sea ice rebound, according to the latest Arctic Report Card. "This year's observations confirm that the Arctic shows no signs of returning to the reliably frozen state that it was in just a decade ago," said Jeremy Mathis, director of the Arctic program at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which publishes the annual scientific assessment. "These changes will impact all of our lives," Mathis said. "They will mean living with more extreme weather events, paying higher food prices and dealing with the impacts of climate refugees." The sea ice in the Arctic has been declining this century at rates not seen in at least 1,500 years, and the region continued to warm this year at about twice the global average, according to the report. Temperatures were 1.6° Celsius above the historical average from 1981-2010 despite a lack of an El Nino, which brings warmer air to the Arctic, and despite summer and fall temperatures more in line with historical averages. Read more at Arctic Report Card: Lowest Sea Ice on Record, 2nd Warmest YearRead more...
Climate Change News
Dec 13, 2017 | 19:57 pm
Antarctic ice sheet models double the sea-level rise expected this century if global emissions of heat-trapping pollution remain high, according to a new study led by Dr. Robert Kopp of Rutgers University and co-authored by scientists at Climate Central. Global average sea level is expected to rise by one foot between 2000 and 2050 and by several more feet by the end of the century under a high-pollution scenario because of the effects of climate change, according to the projections in the new peer-reviewed study. It shows 21st century sea-level rise could be kept to less than two feet if greenhouse gas emissions are aggressively and immediately reduced, reflecting a larger gap in sea-level consequences between high and low emissions scenarios than previous research has indicated. The study provides a median projection for sea-level rise of 146 cm (4’9”) during the 21st century under a high-pollution scenario known as RCP8.5 (see Table 1), when results from new modeling of Antarctic ice sheet behavior are included. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report, published in 2014, which assumed the Antarctic ice sheet would remain stable, provided a median projection for the same scenario during a similar time period of 74 cm (2’5”). Previous efforts to project future sea levels have combined projections for future levels of greenhouse gas pollution with findings from research into the effects of that pollution in warming oceans and melting glaciers. Those efforts have either excluded the possibility of ice sheet break-ups on the margins[…]Read more...