The Danger of Using Too Much Deicer



As our loyal Friends, we know that you’ve heard from us before about the problem of road salt contaminating Lake Wingra. Environmentalists can easily visualize how road salt in the water supply is bad for biodiversity. The problem is, most people link deicers to winter safety and struggle to see how their overuse could negatively impact someone. Unfortunately for all of us, the negative repercussions are increasingly impacting our daily lives – and they can be quantified in dollars and lives.

While deicers are definitely bad for biodiversity, they also spell doom for our infrastructure. According to WI Salt Wise, a program supported by Dane County, every $800 spent on deicers results in $3,300 of infrastructure damage. Last year, WI spent over $40 million on highway deicer, which would mean the taxpayer can expect over $166 million in future damages. And this is aside from any personal property damages that occur – including corrosion on the bottom of your own car.

This problem is about more than personal finances. The 2007 bridge collapse in the Minneapolis was partially linked to corrosion caused by a deicer. That collapse cost 13 people their lives, and injured 145 others. This particular deicer had previously been used on runways until the FAA banned it because it was cracking the pavement. If it can crack pavement and corrode iron reinforcements in a bridge, imagine what it was doing to the underside of planes!

Of course, there are no easy solutions. We live in WI, so we know that it’s impractical (not to mention dangerous) to do nothing about winter ice. What Friends of Lake Wingra is advocating for is prudent application and social awareness that this isn’t strictly an environmental problem. The more often we use the right deicer, at the right time, in the right quantity, the better for public health and safety in all realms. As with all things, it’s about balance.

For more information check out www.wisaltwise.com.