Pinch of Salt

Winter is coming to CNY. Unlike the east coast of NYS, though we did get a late October snow, we did not get a major storm. But winter is coming. The air this morning was heavy with moisture that a few degrees of colder air could have brought down to earth.
I get up early, so I shovel the walks and parking areas before the kids head out to school and work. I try to help my neighbor some with their walk, and I try to keep several parking spaces clear. My “gardens” are the green space between the sidewalk and the street, and the little space between the sidewalk and the house. They get well piled with snow all winter, and with whatever is mixed with it.
I work to keep the sidewalks clear so that I can use as little ice melter as possible. Living in town has taught me that, “Yes, rock salt does hurt animal’s paws”, and I am a little nervous about some of these other chemicals. So I try to keep the sidewalk clear into the street so that the road salt doesn’t get into my gardens either.

Now I have something new to worry about.

According to an article in the Ithaca Journal, Chemung, Broome and Tompins County have approved using “contaminated wastewater from natural gas drilling operations as part of their road and highway maintenance programs”. The DEC says the wastewater is safe to use to keep down dust on roadways or for ice removal.

State routes through Tompkins identified for brine use

Ithaca – A New York State Department of Transportation official said in 2008 that several highways passing through Tompkins County are among the state routes that may be treated with salt brine.
Routes 13, 34B, 38, 79, 89, 96, and 96B were named by NYSDOT Maintenance Environmental Coordinator Tim Baker in a letter written in December 2008. Baker said, “At the time of need the material will be added to the following routes as necessary.”
The material would be purchased from Teppco Inc. “as an anti-icing/de-icing agent” and delivered by a NYSDOT vehicle to a facility in Cortland for storage.
– Liz Lawyer

Let’s get a few things straight at the start. Calling this stuff wastewater, is like saying the water in your toilet bowl after you’ve added the Tidy Bowl, or SaniFlush or whatever, is the same as the water coming into it from the pipes. Yeah – there’s water there, with some added radiation, some diesel fuel and a whole roster of chemical additives. Do you want to be shoveling this crap? Or walking in it? Or inhaling it along with road dust?

That’s actually kind of funny in a morbid way. I was visiting a friend who lives next to a huge industrial dairy. We were watching the clouds of dust rolling up the highway from their feed storage facility. This dust is kicked up from the massive equipment used to move tons of feed every day. The dust accumulates on the highway as it settles out of the air, or is carried out as mud on the tractor tires. Cars going along the highway look as if they are entering a fog bank. A brown fog bank. The dust carries on the breeze until it settles on neighbors yards, or wafts through open windows.

I joked to my friend – “Don’t worry. Soon they’ll be hauling in Fracking fluids and spraying them to keep the dust down!”.

Turns out I wasn’t far from wrong. Thank goodness it wasn’t one of those three counties, cause I’m sure a couple of miles and an imaginary line will stop them.

And let’s look at that term brine. Pickles come packed in brine right? It’s just salty water, isn’t it? Well honey, there’s salt and then there’s salt.  While we’re all being led to believe they’re simply using salty water to fight ice and dust on the roads, let me tell you something. This salt ain’t coming in a blue box with a cute little girl carrying an umbrella on the cover.

In chemistry, salts are ionic compounds that result from the neutralization reaction of an acid and a base. They are composed of cations (positively charged ions) and anions (negative ions) so that the product is electrically neutral (without a net charge). These component ions can be inorganic such as chloride (Cl−), as well as organic such as acetate (CH3COO−) and monatomic ions such as fluoride (F−), as well as polyatomic ions such as sulfate (SO42−).

Wikipedia

However it will be true that “when it rains it pours” as when the ice melts or the rains come, all these “salts”, good and bad will run into our ditches and storm sewers and end up in our lakes and drinking water.

Here’s an interesting tidbit I found:
Salting the earth (the deliberate massive use of salt to render a soil unsuitable for cultivation and thus discourage habitation)

Hmmmm. I wonder if there’s a lesson there……..