Alternatives to Rock Salt
Every year thousands of tonnes of rock salt are put on our roads to clear snow and ice. These help in reducing the potential risk of accidents and help maintain a smooth flow of traffic. However, rock salt has several effects on the environment (water sources, vegetation, roadside soils, and animals). These effects come upon due to the increased levels of sodium and chlorine.
The following are some of the main effects of rock salt on the environment:
- It rusts and corrodes car surfaces.
- It attacks the surface of the concrete.
- Cause irritation to paws of pets
- It is highly toxic when ingested or licked by pets or animals
Due to these effects, the following alternatives to rock salt can be used:
Calcium chloride works on the principle that it absorbs water very quickly. When handling it you should wear gloves or respirators. It leaves an oily, slippery residue so it is not suitable for pedestrian areas. It doesn’t harm vegetation.
Magnesium chloride can also be used if calcium chloride isn’t available
It prevents the forming and adhering of snow and ice to paved surfaces. It is best to apply it before a snowstorm to make sure it’s effective. It is readily available in liquid form and is biodegradable.
Potassium chloride is best to use around vegetation and is a good deicer for pedestrian areas. It works effectively at low temperatures. Its effect on the environment is minimal. Its main drawback is that you need to use large pellets for the same area.
It’s used to prevent ice formation in roads, bridges, and concrete which are sensitive to corrosion although its melting capabilities are limited. Calcium-magnesium acetate (CMA) can damage bridges, secondary roads, and highways. It is economical than rock salt. The only drawback of calcium magnesium acetate is that its dusty and can blow off surfaces.
It is used as a deicer because it melts ice and does not corrode. It is popularly used in airport runways. The only con with urea is it causes algae blooms so it’s not ideal to be used near streams.
Its used as a pre-treatment for sodium chloride (rock salt). It cuts the distribution rate of sodium chloride by 30-50%. Its biodegradable, less corrosive and has minimal impact on the environment. There are a lot of different M products in the market like M-50 or M-2000.
Sand increases the traction in roads. Note that sand is not a deicer. But if not cleaned properly off roads it causes sedimentation.
Cheese brine can be obtained from dairy. It is mainly a waste product in dairy companies and therefore can be easily obtained. It can be sprayed on the roads in a pre-wetting technique. It works better than regular brine because it contains organics.
Alfalfa meal is great because it not only melts the ice but also provides alternatives to rock salt and doesn’t harm the environment