The weather outside was frightful for many in the Pacific Emerald City this past week. The roads were icy enough for Nancy Kerrigan to do a triple axle. The cars were slipping around the roads like Sunday at a NASCAR event. Every other level-headed city official would have used salt on the roads to help de-ice the roads and make them safer, but not the geniuses in the Washington city.
Environmentalists have convinced the city council to stop throwing salt on the streets out of fear of it spilling off into the Puget Sound. Since the Sound is full of salt water, it confuses me as to why it's bad to add salt to salt water. I guess too much salt would cause it to become like the Dead Sea, devoid of life because of too much salt. However, the amount of salt that could possibly run-off into the Puget Sound from salt that is put onto the roads a few days a year isn't enough to deaden the Sound. Diane Spector, a water-resources planner for Wenck Associates, which evaluated snow and ice clearance for nine cities in the Midwest, confirmed that using salt periodically will not have a lasting effect on the environment as long it is not used too often or too much.
What do they use instead of salt? They use sand. However, other cities are starting to move away from sand because it backs-up the sewers, goes into waterways, creates air pollution, and costs even more to clean up than salt. In fact, Ann Williams, spokeswoman for Denver's Department of Public Works, admits that they never use sand because it "causes dust, and there's also water-quality issues where it goes into streets and into our rivers." They don't even use enough sand to provide adequate traction, according to experts.
In addition to sand, they
use the method of "snow-packing." This is where they compact the snow and make it a harder surface to drive on, rather than melting it.
What is the result of using the less-efficient method of "snow-packing" and sand? According to the state patrol, they responded to 157 collisions Sunday in King County (Seattle). Troopers also responded to another 312 disabled vehicles.
Between noon and midnight on Saturday alone, the State Patrol responded to 246 collisions and disabled vehicles in King County. Of those mentioned, 179 occurred between 5 p.m. and midnight, when it would be the iciest.
"It's tough going. I won't argue with you on that," said Alex Wiggins, the chief of staff for the Seattle Department of Transprtation. "We're sensitive about everything we do that impacts the environment." If that is so, why are they using an element that is more environmentally destructive than salt especially when the salt is more effective? The amount of accidents and broken down cars on the side of the rode around Seattle is just ridiculous. Driving around in icy conditions is dangerous enough. Do we really need to use an inferior product to keep our families safe while they are driving this holiday season? The accidents luckily didn't result in any deaths, but it could have been a very different story.