Credit: Photo: Halliday Technologies Inc.

The Ohio DOT uses the RT3 “real time traction tool” to map conditions around Columbus and Cleveland during winter storms. Towed behind or attached to the undercarriage of a truck, the testing wheel compares the friction of wet or treated pavement compared to dry pavement by transmitting signals to an onboard computer.

Credit: Source: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Winter Parking Lot and Sidewalk Maintenance Manual

Melting characteristics of deicing chemicals

Make sure snow removal crews are thoroughly and continuously trained, especially if you're changing your traditional practices.

Foster good communication, so that not only employees but also elected officials and residents understand the reasons for and benefits of any changes to your department's snow and ice control procedures. Your constituents will be glad to know you're working to promote their safety and protect the environment.

— Kenneth A. Hooker is a freelance writer based in Oak Park, Ill.

Web extra: To see what approaches your colleagues have used to minimize salt and sand use, visit the “article links” page under “resources” at

Spread the responsibility

Your department isn't the only culprit contributing to ‘salt pollution.'

Driven by budgetary concerns, political pressure, and conscience and common sense, public works departments are exploring and implementing more environmentally friendly responses to snow and ice.

Unfortunately, though, their efforts are only half the battle.

Private property owners and the contractors they hire to clear snow from parking lots, access roads, and sidewalks are responsible for a significant percentage of deicing salt use. One New Hampshire study attributes 37% of salt usage to the private sector, while a study in Wisconsin found private owners account for about half of the road salt used in the state capital of Madison.

Environmental consultant Connie Fortin estimates that 7% to 40% of chlorides entering the nation's waters come from sources outside of the control of PUBLIC WORKS readers.

Fortin and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) have developed a training manual and conduct half-day classes for property owners and snow removal contractors. Those who complete the course requirements receive a certificate from MPCA and are listed on the agency's Web site as having learned and committed to following best practices for environmentally sound winter parking lot and sidewalk maintenance.