Road Salt and its Environmental Impacts

“Any man worth his salt will stick up for what he believes right, but it takes a slightly better man to acknowledge instantly and without reservation that he is in error”- Andrew Jackson

The state of Oregon is insisting that we begin to use rock salt on our roads to help melt snow and ice during severe winter storms. The state line between California and Oregon was often marked by thick snow on the roadways not to mention the road signs of course.

This has changed in many recent years because the Oregon Department of Transportation launched a pilot program in 2012, Which is responsible for salting multiple stretches of road near the state’s border to avoid confusion as to where it becomes the other states problem. Most of the states don’t use rock salt which is also known as sodium chloride but more commonly known as or called table salt.

ODOT along with the Portland Bureau of Transportation has; instead, been treating roads with magnesium chloride which is a chemical created solution that has similar properties to salt but it is applied to the road as a liquid solution.

It’s considered to be easier on the environment not to mention on the vehicles and roadways, unlike rock salt which can be harmful to roads and vehicles.

It’s also less expensive for the cities and states, said Dave Thompson (ODOT spokesman). While rock salt has always been cheaper to buy, but it can be extremely costly to store and apply.

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If rock salt were to be widely and commonly used, the state would also have to pay for new road treatments to prevent /corrosive damage, not to mention repair and maintain it. It would likely increase the number of accidents on the roads where it’s used because of its different texture, which might make some motorists uneasy about driving.

‘When the day comes where we begin using salt there will be a cost, and we shall all be forced to pay it,’ Thompson stated. ‘The true question is, do we want to pay for it? The answer, for quite a considerable length of time, has been a firm and solid ‘no.”

Magnesium chloride is a chemical and is sprayed as a liquid, in dry conditions it can be applied days in advance without water to wash it away. However, when it rains, which has been known to happen from time to time in Portland and other parts of Oregon the treatment is quickly washed away. Salt too has been known to be washed or blown off of the roads. If applied too early, forced off the road by vehicle traffic.

Neither the state or the city of Portland treat all the roads they maintain with this solution.

Before the recent snowstorm, Portland sprayed an estimated 10,000 gallons as a preventative measure on key routes, covering about 518 square miles of road. This means crews would have had to travel five, and a half times the length of Interstate 5 to apply it. But that’s not going to take into account most residential or side streets.

ODOT, meanwhile, sprayed an estimated 166,000 gallons on Portland-area highways and ramps.

As for sidewalks, removal of snow and ice is the adjacent property is still considered to be the owner’s job.

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Road Salt and its Environmental Impacts. (2022, Aug 03). Retrieved from

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