By Anna

Given the three feet of snow in my front yard and the lack of good snow up in Vancouver, my roommates and I were brainstorming what we could do with all this damn snow in the incident that it won’t just melt away this Spring.

We discussed throwing it in the river or into one of our many lakes, but then realized that as white as our snow is, it’s full of CO2 from our cars and road salt (sodium chloride) from our streets. Montana uses animal remains from slaughterhouses mixed with salt to sticky up their roads, unlike us in the Midwest that stick to the artery clogging stuff, but no matter what each individual state uses, we’ve got salt issues.

“During snow melt, peak chloride concentrations in some urban streams can approach half that of ocean water, far higher than many freshwater organisms can tolerate even for a short period,” according to Lawrence Baker from the University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center. And then the melted salty snow seeps into the fresh ground water, disrupting and even killing aquatic life.

What we Minnesotans have done to help the environment as well as keep our driving safe, is pre-salting the roads with the minimum amount of salt needed to melt the ice as it builds up, according to Baker. Also, less salt means less corrosion of cars and bridges, which saves us money.

We rely on politicians to keep our roads safe, and conservationist to keep our lakes clean; and although road salt and climate change are not directly connected, salt has indirect affects on the climate. Everything we bring to the world’s table, natural or artificial, ultimately affects the future of the planet. We have no personal decision about how much road salt we use, about 260 pounds per Minnesotan every winter, so being aware of personal use is that much more important.

I like to imagine what it would look like if each person carried around 260 pounds of salt in their trunks to use as they pleased. My guess is we would run out before winter’s end because we’d be hyper concerned for our safety and then we’d ask for more salt, contributing even further to the death of freshwater fish, fish we like to catch in the summers. But we live in an age where we cannot be solely concerned for one species because that will lead to our demise faster than the risk of saltless winter roads.

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