Salt used for deicing and winter road management is poisoning Vermont's ecosystems, but it isn't coming from where you'd think. Parking lots and congested urban areas are increasingly the source of the salt, winter managers say. Drivers expecting visibly salted roads, and a lack of standards for private companies offering salting services, has many calling for tough standards to stop the problem cold.
According to the Winooksi Natural Resources Conservation District, chloride levels in Lake Champlain have jumped 30 percent over the last decade, due in no small part to excess road salt. The salt doesn't disappear or biodegrade, meaning it slowly accumulates in the environment. Water quality tests show some basins within Lake Champlain have salt levels that could affect people with hypertension, and can shift waterway ecology away from the "good" green algae toward toxic blooms of blue-green algae known as cyanobacteria.
Vermont's Agency of Transportation follows a plan which aims to minimize salt use, it's private winter road managers that salt with impunity, according to Phill Sexton, founder of WIT Advisers with more than 30 years in the commercial snow and ice removal industry.
Sexton joins Vermont Edition to discuss how over-application of salt can impact ecosystems, and ways private contractors, watershed groups, and the public can change the way they apply salt to engage in sustainable salting.
Broadcast live on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.