City Dumping Too Much Salt Ahead of Snowstorms, Local Committee Complains

Salt created a haze on Amsterdam Avenue as cars drove over it in December.

By Alex Israel

Community Board 7 is concerned about the large amount of salt that the city appears to be spreading throughout the neighborhood whenever there’s a forecast for snow.

The board’s transportation and parks committees decided to send a letter to the Department of Transportation (DOT) expressing concern about seasonal street salting. Transportation Committee Co-chair Howard Yaruss said he added the item to the January meeting agenda “after noticing an inch-deep layer of salt on 68th Street,” one day in late 2019.

Committee members shared concerns about both the financial and environmental burdens of proactively street salting. One referenced a study that found a correlation between unhealthy air quality and salt. Parks & Environment Committee Co-chair Klari Neuwelt added that aside from the above-ground damage it might cause, the salt “corrodes ConEd wires and leads to all sorts of damage and outages,” below us.

The city often uses copious amounts of salt even for small storms, according to Columbia University’s Earth Institute: “During the winters of 2016-18, DSNY used an average of 20,124 tons of salt during storms with 2 inches or less of snow accumulation. This works out to more than a ton of salt per lane mile, a high application rate even by the guidelines of The Salt Institute, a trade association that advocates for ‘the many benefits of salt.’ A similar amount of salt was used even during smaller storms, resulting in very high usage when weighted per inch of snow.”

There is “clearly harm being done as a result,” concluded Yaruss, before reaching the decision to send the letter—which was met with universal approval from the committees.

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 18 comments | permalink
    1. ST says:

      Aint this the truth. So sloppy. We are all inhaling salt powder.

    2. B.B. says:

      Moan, whinge, whine… is that all inhabitants of UWS do with themselves?

      Am sure when angel Gabriel blows that horn UWS residents will complain it is too loud.

      • MA says:

        Before the next snow forecast, I invite you to meet me at Columbus & 81st to snort some lines of salt. Worry not, there will be enough for all. The city arranged to have it spread liberally by trucks. Since you’re willing to inhale salt into your lungs, I am 100% sure that you’ll enjoy the salt lines party I’m proposing.

        -your neighbor who doesn’t like snorting salt

        • Rational UWS says:

          If you believe that salt harms, please send the citations of the scientific articles in peer reviewed academic journals that show the health damage caused by salt. Otherwise, you have nothing but an opinion.

    3. dc says:

      Yes, it’s alot…I can taste it when I walk down the street. But I’m afraid in our litigious society, the city would rather spend the money on copious amounts of salt, then shell out for a lawsuit when someone slips on ice crossing the street and sues the city.

    4. Jean Mensing says:

      No salt in sight yesterday and very slippery on both Broadway and Amsterdam. What’ a girl to do ?

    5. Adam says:

      That’s quite a few Margaritas.

    6. UWSmom says:

      I get that salt corrodes infrastructure. But how is breathing salt unhealthy? People have been going to salt caves for health for years.

    7. Jim p says:

      This is not a problem of the UWS alone. Many thanks for highlighting this city-wide issue.

    8. Lou Leaky says:

      Maybe all this salt is why there’s leaking at the 86th/CPW B-C subway station? Just a couple of years after a months-long closure, and a $150 milllion expenditure to stop leaks?

    9. robert says:

      Its not sodium chloride, which is what salt really is. The city has not used it in years. what they actually are putting down is calcium chloride. Both are naturally occurring substances. If your afraid of calcium chloride I suggest stop eating/drinking any cheese, tofu, sports drinks etc as its in them and many other foods. Must of the type it is in them naturally, but the amount may be raised as its a thickener.
      As for the amount its called “preparing” by putting this stuff down on all the streets before the snow starts you avoid conditions like black ice under it. Yes it is hit and miss, they have a standard formula DOS & DOT based on what is predicted plus some as an era factor as well as past history, such as what are habitual slick spots. Its not an exact sci, remember the bag storm in Nov 2018??

      • Ladybug says:

        NaCl or CaCl – it doesn’t matter – too much dust isn’t good for the lungs – ask any pulmonologist. And btw everything that is “natural” is not necessarily good for you!

    10. DA says:

      Thank you, Mr Yaruss for bringing this issue up at the CB7 transportation committee meeting.

      The DSNY seems to have instituted a policy to apply salt even before it snows. Several times they have done this even when the weather forecast clearly shows minimal or no snow in the forecast. Beyond that, they position snow spreaders idling on street corners for hours. And I have seen snow spreading continue even after the sky is blue and the temperature is above freezing. The DSNY commissioner seems more concerned about the small chance of slippery streets than the environmental and wasteful costs of saturating the streets with salt.

      • Scott says:

        Yes, and to put to rest another claim made here, the city isn’t liable for someone slipping while crossing the street. There has to be negligence and simply not dumping salt on the roadway does not equal negligence. Oh I’m sure someone could sue but their chances for success are low.

    11. Bridget Russo says:

      and then someone slips and falls or their cars spins on the street….people will always complain.

    12. ben says:

      You can never please everyone. Say people complained and the city listened (fat chance, I know), next thing you know some others would be up in their arms about how the city is ill-prepared for snow storms by being super stingy with salting.

    13. Phill Sexton says:

      Sustainable Winter Management Guidelines can help.

    14. Rochira says:

      The “salt” used on streets also burns the paw pads of dogs.