Out here in the country where most of us have to communte to work in our cars, the state of our roads in winter is of paramount importance. However we are not only commuters, most of us in Heath worry about the environment and are always seeking ways to live more lightly on our beautiful landscape.
This desire is not only felt individually. Last year and this the town is using a new method of ‘salting’ the roads to make them passable and safe. Our salt mixture is now a combination of rock salt, magnesium chloride, and molasses! Yes, molasses as in gingerbread.
The salt mixture is applied after consideration of the temperatures. When applied properly the snow and ice melts quickly leaving a clean road surface. At first some people feared the town was using excessive salt because the surface of the road is quite white when dry, but this is because the magnesium chloride sticks to the road surface instead of being washed away into our streams, and actually acts as a pre-treatment for the next snowfall.
And the molasses? It provides a coating to prevent the mix from adhering to the truck beds, and underbellies, and the undersides of all our cars as we drive along the paved roads. This mix is not used on our dirt roads because it would make them soft and muddy.
This mix is being used by the Massachusetts Highway Department in a variety of ways, on state highways like I-91 where it is used in a liquid form and on Route 2 where they leave out the molasses. There are several advantages. It is safe aruond animals and humans because it does nto affet skin, leather or carpets. No special handling equipment is needed.
It reduces the levels of sodium and chloride ion exposure to well, vegetation, and surface water. It also eliminates the need for sand, a major source of phosphorus contamination.