Good piece in the Toronto Star today on the tradeoffs governments make to keep the roads clear of snow and ice in Canada’s cold climate:
Our roads may stay snow-bare, but our heavy dependence on road salt is toxic to the environment.
The salt burns trees, chokes vegetation, and contaminates soil. It depletes water of oxygen, and is toxic to many fish. Salts also accelerate the corrosion of automobiles, roads, bridges and sidewalks.
So why do we keep using piles of the stuff?
It comes down to money. Salt is cheap. There are less harmful alternatives – some man-made, others naturally derived, from corn or sugar beets for example – and many jurisdictions in the United States, such as Colorado, New Jersey and Ohio, are beginning to put them into heavy use. But they are expensive.
The fact that Toronto and the province have all but passed them over in favour of salt underscores a cold calculation: To the government, reducing environmental harm is apparently not worth the extra cost.