HILLSBOROUGH: Don’t overuse road salt and protect water quality  

To the editor: 
Winter is approaching. And the citizens of Hillsborough know what that means — snow, and possibly lots of it.
Each year, when Mother Nature blankets the streets with snow, the township authorities blanket the snow with salt. The United States dumps 20 million tons of salt on snow-covered roadways annually. And my general rule in life is that whenever you dump 20 million tons of anything, there has to be consequences.
Overall, road salt is essential. Without it, patches of slippery ice would have claimed my life long ago. But the public safety benefits of road salt do come with ecological drawbacks.
While salt goes great on a pretzel, it is not a great condiment for the environment. After the snow melts, the salt stays. Researchers have found that around 70 percent of salt applied to roads seeps into a region’s watershed. Salty groundwater results in salty drinking wells. This is a health issue for anyone on restricted-sodium diets, and a taste problem for everyone else.
Road salt application is also an issue for wildlife. When salt migrates into lakes and streams, the imbalance harms aquatic plants and animals. When salt splashes off roads, it erodes soil and damages trees and vegetation as far as 650 feet away. Furthermore, salty roadsides attract animals, which use these surfaces as an artificial salt lick, increasing the risks of nasty automotive collisions.
Currently, road salts are the most cost-effective way to keep snowy surfaces safe for Traffic, but this will change in the coming years as researchers develop cheap, environmentally friendly substitutes. For now, however, the least we can do is cut back on our salt usage. Road crews should pre-wet the salt, as this allows for more controlled application and better sticking power. And salt should be applied before a storm hits, because this allows salt to adhere to the ground more efficiently than when it is applied during a storm.
I’m calling for the township authorities to remain conscious of the consequences of road salt application and vigilant for emergent alternatives. And, if no practical alternative arises, the authorities should at the very least make efforts to minimize the amount of salt being dumped on the roadways. As long as road salt application is scaled down and replaced over time, the holidays will be happier — and healthier — in Hillsborough. 
William Yan 
Hillsborough 