As the winter season draws to a close, I am reminded of an essay I typed up 35 years ago, how is that even possible?!?!
My then-boyfriend, now husband, was taking a geography elective course in university and the wonderful girlfriend I was, offered to type it up for him. To clarify, typing an essay 35 years ago was a production. I used a manual typewriter and white-out. If there were too many mistakes on a page, I would start over again, it must have been love…
The topic of his essay was “the effects of winter salt on roadside vegetation”. Who would have thought that 35 years later I would be the one focusing on eco-friendly initiatives that provide road salt alternatives and help reduce the need for road salt in Ontario?
“The more things change, the more they stay the same,” coined by French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, holds true.
This past winter, many of the inquiries to LID Paving have been directly related to reducing road salt. Inquirers rightly wonder: “How does road salt affect aquatic systems?” “What are some of road salt’s effects on human health?” “Are there any road salt alternatives in Ontario?”
Road salt is not only detrimental and damaging to roadside vegetation, it is also harmful and caustic to paving surfaces, metals – such as rail tracks and train wheels – and nearby vegetative ecosystems.
The changing weather patterns and the subsequent increase of the melt-freeze cycle commonly found on surface water caused by fluctuating temperatures lead to a great increase in the winter salt used to reduce the risk of slip and falls.
The increase in the area of paved surfaces due to our growing population only adds to the quantity of salt used during the winter.
Road salt does not only adversely affect nearby areas, it has also been linked to the over salination of the Great Lakes and natural water bodies, impacting aquatic ecosystems and vegetation.
How, you may ask, does a parking lot located kilometers away from the nearest lake affect the aquatic ecosystems?
Due to population growth and the development of residential and commercial land, more and more of what used to be natural and undeveloped is now a solid surface; roofs, roads, sidewalks, pathways and parking lots.
All of these solid surfaces produce stormwater “runoff” which then enters the surrounding natural waters. When the runoff is polluted or tainted by brine or winter salt, that polluted runoff enters the nearby natural waters as well. It is hard to contain and it is hard to control.
So why, you may ask, have people been contacting LID Permeable Paving?
The answer is simple.
Permeable pavers such as Ecoraster and the other porous paving products offered by LID Paving help clients greatly reduce if not eliminate the need for winter salt.
Permeable paving is not influenced by the traditional melt-freeze cycle. Standing water on the surfaces, such as puddles, do not form due to the nature of the permeable products and the free-draining base beneath. No puddles means nothing to freeze and hence, no need for winter salt.
Clients are excited, not only by the positive environmental impact they have by reducing salt but also by the tremendous cost savings.
Further, those clients who need to pave “sensitive” areas, where salt can damage their infrastructure and machinery, have found the benefits of Ecoraster and other permeable surfaces to be priceless.
Although permeable paving may not be the answer to our vast network of highways and high-speed roads, incorporating permeable surfaces such as the Ecoraster grid pavers into projects for heavy-duty access roads, permeable parking lots, driveways, pathways and sidewalks will lead to a noticeable improvement in the water quality of the Great Lakes and in the health of aquatic life.
It is easier than you may think to “go permeable”.