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Caution: Road Salt Test Area

by Susan Toch - "The Sentinel," Feb. 20, 1985

BELCHERTOWN - Caution; reduce speed, end road salt test area... Caution. All winter these signs have been posted on selected areas of routes 202 and 9 in Belchertown. Have you ever wondered why? Hasn't there been an increase of auto accidents? What good has it done anyway?

Chris Kurtis of the Lower Pioneer Valley Regional Planning Commission, says that road conditions have not been a problem in the reduced salt test areas. He claims that there have not been any greater hazards than in previous years. The testing of well water will be taking place soon to determine if the reduced sodium on the roads has reduced the sodium levels in the Belchertown water supply.

Perhaps some background information is called for...

Salt has been used for many years to de-ice roadways in order to provide safe driving conditions for our increasingly mobile society. The application of de-icing chemicals has been found, however, to be directly related to rising sodium and chloride levels in municipal and private wells.

Road salt is composed of sodium and chloride. Sodium has a significant impact on public health. Researchers have documented that sodium increases blood pressure and causes stress, on persons with cardiovascular, kidney and liver disorders. Environmental impact includes damage to roadside vegetation, highway bridge deck corrosion and auto corrosion.

State Standards

Massachusetts has thus, established a state standard for sodium at 20 mg/liter. Belchertown is experiencing sodium levels in excess of these state standards. Elevated sodium levels continue to be monitored in private wells along Rte. 202, and 9, and along several local roads. In addition, the Belchertown municipal wells are also ones of concern.

Based upon careful analysis of surface and groundwater supplies and areas of contamination, certain roadway sections in Belchertown were designated as environmentally sensitive areas. These areas were provided for in an agreement between the town of Belchertown, the Mass. Dept. of Public Works (DPW), and the Mass. Dept. of Environmental Quality Engineering (DEQE). Within the designated Rte. 202 and Rte. 9 areas, recommendations were developed to reduce salt applications. This served as a compromise solution in order to maintain safe driving conditions while protecting water resources from salt contamination.

Alternative Approaches

Alternative approaches to salting the roads include utilizing other de-icing materials, as well as reducing the level of service on these roads. The DPW has determined the recommended level of service to be achieved for these areas. This is based on the road type and the volume of traffic that they typically carry.

Due to the environmentally sensitive nature of Rte. 202 and Rte. 9, a reduction in the use of road salt is well warranted. It is also within the recommended standard of traffic safety for this area.

The contamination of public and private water supplies by sodium chloride has been occurring in Belchertown since the early 1970's. Belchertown water­shed and aquifer recharge areas provide water supply not only for Belchertown, but also for surrounding municipalities.

It is important to reduce the amount of road salt being applied to these environmentally sensitive areas. The measures agreed upon by the DPW, the DEQE and the Town of Belchertown are designed to reduce salt conlamination of water resources, while maintaining safe driving conditions, as well.

Interested In Environmental Issues?

Conservation Commission The concerns of the Belchertown Conservation Commission include wetland protection, water conservation, the protection of open space areas, and the management of town land. We are finishing work on the Open Space Plan which should provide options for further grant assistance. We are also concerned with extending educational programs to the Belchertown community.

The Conservation Commission has hired a new assistant. Susan Toch has a degree in natural resources management and forestry. Her background includes environmental education programs and community projects. Some of the proposed projects include increased community interaction, educational programs, and management of the conservation areas. The Conservation Commission would like to bear your ideas or comments about issues affecting the Belchertown community. Our mailbox is located in the town hall. Let us know your thoughts.

 
 
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