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It's Snow Joke

Date : Wed, 2 Feb 2011 11:52:51 -0500


For Immediate Release
February 2, 2011 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

It's Snow Joke

The Sierra Club is very concerned about the NJDEP's decision to dump snow in our rivers. The snow that is being dumped into our waterways contains many toxic chemicals, such as benzyne, VOC's, hydrocarbons and many other chemicals.

"As we are getting pelted with another storm yet again we need to look at the consequences of what is happening this winter," said Jeff Tittel, Director of NJ Sierra Club. "There are serious environmental impacts from overuse of roads salts and this winter puts it clearly into focus."

We are even more concerned about the salt content in the snow. Salt being dumped into waterways, especially above reservoirs and water supply intakes, can have serious health consequences. High levels of salt in drinking water can have public health impacts to people with high blood pressure and heart disease, and also children. The Oradell Reservoir in Bergen County is actually listed as impaired for salt by the DEP and many winter health advisories have to go out to residents of Bergen County. Dumping additional salt into these waterways will only increase these health risks. It also harms fish and aquatic species causing environmental damage.

"As this winter's deluge of storm after storm is leaving a mess on the roads, it is also making a mess of our environment. Putting millions of tons of salt on roadways directly effects our waterways and could impact our public health," said Jeff Tittel.

Some roads may get up to 300 tons of road salt per lane-mile each year. Recently, many scientists have begun to study the effects of so road salt on ecosystems, water quality, public health and road quality. These impacts include:

- Destruction of soil structure by killing some soil bacteria. This allows more soil to erode into streams, taking the salt with it. Salt erosion contaminates drinking water to levels that exceed public consumption standards.

- Salt doesn't evaporate, or otherwise get removed once applied, so it remains a persistent risk to aquatic ecosystems and to water quality. Approximately 55 percent of road-salt runs off with snow melt into streams, with the remaining 45 percent infiltrating through soils and into groundwater aquifers according to a 1993 study.

- Slowly killing trees, especially white pines, and other roadside plants. The loss of indigenous plants and trees on roadsides allows hardier salt-tolerant species to take over.

- Changing water chemistry, causing minerals to leach out of the soil, and increasing the acidity of water, according to Dr. Stephen Norton, a professor of Geological Sciences at the University of Maine.

- Seeping into drinking water, which changes its flavor and adds the excess dietary sodium associated with hypertension.

- Corrodes metals like automobile brake linings, frames, and bumpers, and can cause cosmetic corrosion. To prevent this corrosion, automakers spend almost $4 billion per year.

- Penetrating concrete to corrode the reinforcing rods causing damage to bridges, roads and cracked pavement. Municipalities across the state have begun to use salt, potassium carbonate, and other compound brine as an alternative. The brine uses less or no salt, reducing environmental damage and saving money. The brine is more effective in melting ice as it sticks to the roadway better (there is no "bounce and scatter" effect as seen with rock salt) and is more effective at lower temperatures than traditional salt. Brine can also be mixed with grit to give vehicles more traction, making our roadways safer in icy conditions. Brine can also be used as an anti-icer, applied to roads before a major storm to prevent ice from forming, not just a de-icer as rock salt.

"We have to look at safer, more environmentally-friendly methods that not only protect out environment but also our infrastructure," said Jeff Tittel. "People may make fun of brine but it is one way out of this pickle."

The dumping of snow in our waterways is a major problem as it can increase or cause flooding. The dumping of large quantities of snow into icy rivers can create ice dams which could flood many properties. This slushy mess can get stuck under bridges not only causing flooding but threatening the structural integrity of these bridges.

We should only be dumping snow into fields, parking lots and other places on land away from well heads and aquifer recharge areas. As snow melts, salts and chemicals can enter our water sources if piled in these sensitive areas. Cities such as New York City, Philadelphia, Woodbridge, and Madison have begun using snow melters to preclude the need for dumping snow in waterways. Some of these systems also have mechanisms to remove pollutants from the water while melting the snow, treating the water before it enters the sewer system. Dumping large quantities of snow into our waterways is bad for the environment and can cause flooding.

"The DEP policy on allowing dumping in rivers is more politics than science. In a case-by-case basis the mayors that scream the loudest will be allowed to dump," said Jeff Tittel. "The DEP has not developed proper snow dumping criteria that protects the environment and protects us from flooding"

Kate Millsaps, Program Assistant NJ Sierra Club 145 W. Hanover Street Trenton, NJ 08618 609.656.7612 (f) 609.656.7618  <>  


Received on 2011-02-02 08:52:51

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
or email Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, at

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