A Norwegian task force looking at ways to minimize the environmental impact of keeping roads clear of snow & ice during the winter has positive news for the salt industry and environmental campaigners alike – gritting’s environmental impact is very small.
The Norwegian Public Roads Administration (NPRA) is the governmental body responsible for the operation of Norway’s road network. As part of its objectives to develop an eco-friendly transport system it is looking at ways to minimize the environmental damage of its road gritting activities.
To that end, a recent research programme called “Salt SMART” examined the ways roads could be kept open and traffic safety maintained even during the harshest winter months without damaging the environment. They began their investigation with a literature review, as well as conducting new studies, to establish the damage that can be caused by salt to surface water, ground water and surrounding vegetation.
Their findings were extremely positive. Although they concluded gritting may result in changes to plankton populations, current road salting practices have not caused changes to the riverbed fauna and fish seemed unaffected. They also found no clear evidence that the grass and small roadside plants were affected by salt or additives in the salt. In addition they concluded the negligible damage caused by salting could be reduced by watering plants in the spring.
Finally, in an attempt to further their knowledge of the performance of salt and the characteristics of salt additives, the NPRA team conducted a further literature review. Based on the latest research on their respective environmental impact and effect on the roads, NPRA found no reason to recommend the use of salt additives or chemical alternative to salt.
So while they continue to look at ways to further improve efficiencies, the results of Salt SMART are good new for the industry and better news for the environment.