From the road to the faucet: a sip of sodium?
In addition, application of the chemical presents potential hazards to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract, as specified in the product’s Material Safety Data Sheet (see www.innovativecompany.com/userfiles/file/msds%202012/MeltDown%2026%20wit...). Swendsen noted that no matter what is applied, it all eventually seeps into the earth or gradually makes its way into regional waterways, so it is worth exploring new alternatives as they become available.
On the horizon are new products such as beet and corn solutions using the leftover mash from alcohol distilleries and beet juice. Mixed in a de-icing cocktail, they can reduce the need for salt and do not corrode metal or pose threats to wildlife or people.
Farther down the road is the concept of roads that de-ice themselves utilizing solar panels that heat up the road surface or fluid-filled tubes inside the road. Although still in its infancy, the concept could be developed in such a way as to harvest leftover solar power from nearby facilities such as charging stations for electric vehicles. Higher initial costs for construction could be offset with savings gained by cutting the costs of de-icing and accident response.
Ultimately, what is applied to area roads takes its toll on the quality of drinking water. To keep tabs on that, Narrowsburg water/sewer superintendent Scott Birney said the town tests for a variety of water contaminants following schedules set by the DOH. The rising trend in sodium levels has been reversed but remains at levels requiring people on severely sodium-restricted diets to take heed.
The town mails its Annual Drinking Water Report to all residents of the NWD in May and posts the results on its website (see the 2011 report at www.tusten.org/Tusten_Water_2011.pdf).
Application of chemicals to regional roads isn’t the only practice affecting water quality. As spelled out in the report, groundwater protection begins at home. Disposing of products used at home can contribute to the contamination of the community's groundwater. Motor oil, pesticides, left-over paints or paint cans, mothballs, flea collars, weed killers, household cleaners and even some medications contain materials that are harmful to groundwater and to the environment.