gordon.dewis.ca - Random musings from Gordon


Archive for February 17th, 2010

One can actually use too much salt

February 17, 2010 @ 12:55 By: gordon Category: Environment, General

Salt is a popular way to get rid of ice that’s formed on sidewalks and roads. The City of Ottawa applies tonnes of salt to Ottawa’s roads and sidewalks every winter. So much, in fact, that a few years ago they started using brine solutions and pre-wetting the rock salt because both are more effective than dry rock salt and result in less salt being used, which is a Good Thing.

From a driver’s point of view, salt is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it results in safer roads and a curse because it can damage cars. From an environmentalist’s point of view, it’s a real problem because it can have a serious impact on the plants and animals it comes into contact with.  From a building owner’s point of view it’s also a a mixed blessing: No ice means people aren’t going to sue you, but at the same time it can quickly damage concrete and cement.

But some building owners seem to be sacrificing the longevity of their buildings at all costs. Last week, one building I walk by every day on my way to work had almost a solid layer of salt on all of the steps and walkways. Salt was building up in the corners and you could see it creeping up the concrete, outlining every crack and crevice. Yesterday, I noticed bright new patches of rust on some of the railings that were caked in salt, so it’s starting to eat away at them, too.

True, the building has absolutely no ice problems, but that less because of the salt and more because there hasn’t been a lot of ice this winter. If they keep this salt application strategy going, they’re not going to have much of a building left.

I’m wondering how they’re going to clean up all their salt when spring finally arrives. Hopefully, they’ll be responsible and scoop it up to be used next winter rather than getting the pressure washers out and washing it down the storm sewers. Already you can see trails from the runoff from their property leading to the sewers.