Why is there always so much salt on campus?
As someone who hates how much blue salt gets dragged into my living room every day, I’m trying to shed some light on the issue.
Obviously, there is a reason for the salt.
Salt helps us in terms of grip and is somewhat of a necessity during the winter months, because it’s a cheap and effective way to protect roads from ice.
By lowering the freezing point of pure water salt impedes the ability of the water molecules to form solid ice crystals.
But, why, oh why, is there so much salt?
I feel like half the time we are expecting snow, I see more blue than white.
These salt solutions decrease the freezing temperature of water to just around 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
When the temperature goes below that, all the salt in the world can’t help.
Moreover, the environmental impact of all this salt is staggering.
The salt runoff floods into Lake Erie and makes the sodium content in Erie waters 40 times higher than it should be.
Penn State Behrend research teams discovered that the issue is actually worsening in Erie right now.
If this doesn’t bother you, then think about the fact that we have to drink that water.
Animals have to live in that water too.
The sodium chloride is toxic to aquatic life and even low concentrations harms the freshwater ecosystem.
Columbia University found that some 40 percent of U.S. urban streams now exceed the safe guidelines for aquatic life.
Runoff containing the road salt causes oxygen depletion in bodies of water, which is also equally as harmful for the natural life.
Salt is a corrosive, eating away roads, bridges and other infrastructure, and costing us millions each year in repairs.
Since salt was first used in the 1940s, its usage has only increased.
Today an estimated 20 million tons of salt is scattered on U.S. roads annually.
This is about 123 pounds for every American. That is as crazy as it sounds.
Winter maintenance is very expensive for states and Pennsylvania comes in second after New York, spending $246 million on snow control each year.
Imagine if we spent a little less on sodium and little more on caring for our earth.
An alternative strategy would be putting sand on the ice, but it is not cheaper and also has its drawbacks because it doesn’t change the melting temperature.
I live in a Lewis townhouse which has both a front and back door.
This creates two gaping points of entry for all the salt.
Our back steps get cleared in the mornings by maintenance, which is such a blessing, but then get thoroughly salted.
If the steps are cleared, we really don’t need that much salt in the end.
To be honest, more ends up in our living room then on the actual steps.
I want to make one thing clear, I don’t blame the maintenance workers for this at all.
They do so much for all of us, and I am sure they are just using the amount of salt that they are instructed to.
I’m also sure the University also fears an expensive lawsuit if someone slips and they have not salted at all.
That’s actually the hard part here.
Where are we supposed to draw the line between safety and sustainability?
Salt is working in the short-term, but the long-term impact is detrimental.
In this day and age, I honestly think the environment calls us to salt less and take care when walking more.
I am sick of the blue particles everywhere.
And, to be blunt here, Erie’s water, natural and plant life can only handle so much more of this.