Snow, Salt, and Sand

Here in Seattle, we’re bundling up our extremities, blasting our heaters, and preparing for the treacherous and snail-paced commutes that come hand-in-hand with the first snowstorm of the year.

Photo by Peter Whitcomb. Some rights reserved.

A predicted 1.5 inches might not sound like much to the snow-savvy, but here in the Northwest, we’re ill-equipped to clear our roads in a hurry. In 2008’s “snowpocalypse” deicing nightmare, favoring sand over salt left us with icy, icy streets and a debate that has yet to be settled.

Salt, according to the EPA, “contributes to the corrosion of vehicles and infrastructure and can damage water bodies, ground water, and roadside vegetation.” Sand, however, when overused, “often ends up in the environment, either as dust particles that contribute to air pollution or in runoff to streams and rivers.”

Local news site PubliCola reports that Seattle’s Mayor McGinn has a new snow response plan – and it calls for both salt and sand. Before you voice your opinion loudly in front of those you aim to impress, best gather all the facts from the following EPA guidance:

Managing Highway Deicing to Prevent Contamination of Drinking Water

Road Salt Application and Storage

What You Should Know About Safe Winter Roads and the Environment

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