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Reader's view: Road salt takes heavy toll on environment

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“An estimated 16,650 tons of salt is expected to be used on St. Louis County roads next winter,” according to the July 9 story, “County buys 33 million pounds of road salt.”

How many tons will be used on sidewalks, driveways, parking lots, city streets and state highways? Salt rusts vehicles to the point they can no longer be repaired and corrodes the concrete and steel in highways and bridges. The spray kills trees and grass. What is the total damage?

During winter, decaying vegetation in storm sewers and ditches becomes laden with salt. The debris is then carried along with spring rains and runoff. Could salt-laden, floating debris explain why the corrosion of steel pilings in the Duluth-Superior Harbor is limited to the top few feet below the water line?

What of the microorganisms, the insects, amphibians and fish spawning areas exposed to salt? What of the fish and wildlife dependent on this food chain? And could it be that the salt flushed into St. Louis Bay with each rainfall enables the reproduction of invasive species?

Today’s tires perform quite well on icy roads. Would good tires, driving slower and driving less be a more equitable and sustainable solution to icy conditions than the damage and expense caused by current levels of salt use? We need more thought and research given to the full cost and effects. Without good information, we cannot make good decisions.

Harris Mills

Grand Marais

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