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Seattle's salt-free snow response raises hackles

In an effort to preserve the health of marine life, officials in Seattle are opting not to use salt to help clear their roads after a series of major snowstorms.

By Blogger for The Christian Science Monitor / December 24, 2008

A snowboarder heads down a side street in Seattle's Queen Anne neighborhood last week. City officials have avoided using salt to remove the snow, instead opting to make the roads "snow-packed."

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

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In an effort to preserve the health of marine life, officials in Seattle are opting not to use salt to help clear their roads after a series of major snowstorms.

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Instead, the city is sprinkling sand on top of the snow to improve traction, and using an environmentally friendly, soy-based de-icer that is effective only at below-freezing temperatures. The Seattle Times quotes a city official, who explains that the Emerald Ivory City is seeking to make its roads snow-packed instead of snow-free.

"We're trying to create a hard-packed surface," said Alex Wiggins, chief of staff for the Seattle Department of Transportation. "It doesn't look like anything you'd find in Chicago or New York." ...
"If we were using salt, you'd see patches of bare road because salt is very effective," Wiggins said. "We decided not to utilize salt because it's not a healthy addition to Puget Sound."

Predictable outcome

The results of putting sand on top of icy snow are pretty much what you would expect. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer gives the details:

Sunday was full of car crashes, even after several pleas from State Patrol and local police to stay off the roads.
The State Patrol responded to 157 collisions Sunday in King County. Troopers also responded to another 312 disabled vehicles.
Between noon and midnight on Saturday, the State Patrol responded to 246 collisions and disabled vehicles in King County.

Also as expected, conservative bloggers have taken the opportunity to accuse Seattle officials for placing the safety of marine life before that of the city's human residents. Commentator Michelle Malkin singled them out as the "Enviro-nitwits of the day":

Seattle’s no-salt policy is endangering lives. It’s just the latest example of enviro-nitwit-ism from greenies in the Puget Sound, who would rather force commuters to risk accidents than “pollute” salty sea water with more salt.

Is salt really worse than sand?

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