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Staff in the NHDES Salt Reduction Program dream of a “green” Christmas

Date: January 10, 2022

The time of year has arrived when the sounds of snow plows greet you in the morning after an evening snowfall. Snow is cleared off and salt is applied to roadways, parking lots and sidewalks so you can safely commute to work, kids can get to school, and retail establishments can ensure the safety of their customers. Snow and ice management in New Hampshire is the responsibility of state, municipal and private entities. Our State Department of Transportation, Municipal Departments of Public Works and Road Agents, and countless commercial salt applicators typically associated with landscaping or construction companies combined, apply the bulk of winter salt and brine in the state during the winter season. But what happens to the salt afterwards? Where does it end up?

Unfortunately, salt, which is made up of sodium and chloride ions (NaCl), ultimately makes its way into our lakes, rivers and drinking water wells. With an estimated 400,000 tons (800 million pounds) of salt applied in the state each year, New Hampshire currently has over 50 chloride-impaired waterbodies that do not meet water quality standards under the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Water Act. Chloride is a permanent pollutant and it only takes one teaspoon of chloride to pollute five gallons of water. It is estimated that about 25% of salt applied to roads and parking lots is wasted through over-application. The best way to prevent chloride contamination in surface and groundwater while maintaining safety is to apply salt, an alternative de-icing, or liquid brine at the right time, in the right place and the right amount.

The New Hampshire Voluntary Certified Commercial Salt Applicator Program (Green SnowPro) was created in 2010 to train commercial snow and ice management companies to reduce their salt application rates through best practices relative to the efficient, economical and effective use of de-icing products. Once certified, commercial plow drivers, and salt and brine truck operators – and the clients who hire them – receive limited liability for winter maintenance operations.
The first step to get certified by NHDES as a Green SnowPro salt applicator is to take the full course and exam. Long-standing courses and training were only offered through the NHDES partnership with the University of New Hampshire Technology Transfer Center. Now an additional partnership with the Smart About Salt Council offers virtual trainings that meet Green SnowPro course requirements for both the full course with exam and the refresher course required every two years. These convenient, online courses can be completed at any time of the year and at a pace most suitable for the applicant. This has proven to be advantageous to the Green SnowPro audience since there is little down-time with these professionals who are engaged in landscaping, construction, and/or property management during the spring, summer, and fall, and then busy with snow and ice management in the winter.

Aubrey Voelker joined the NHDES Salt Reduction Program as the new Green SnowPro Coordinator in November 2021.  With a salt pile-like stack of applications and snow already flying, the primary focus has been to get as many commercial salt applicators certified as possible. If you are preparing to engage the services of a snow and ice management company this winter, please consider a Green SnowPro certified applicator.

As we head into the New Year, the focus of the program is shifting to partnering with municipalities as they will soon be recognized as eligible for Green SnowPro certification. Given that municipalities are the second largest contributor to salt applied in the state each winter, this partnership is key to achieving measureable salt reduction in New Hampshire.

The only way to reverse the alarming trend in chloride contamination we are seeing in our water bodies is for our state, municipal and, especially, our commercial snow and ice management professionals to apply less salt by implementing best salt reduction management practices. Green SnowPro applicators are uniquely qualified to both protect public safety and safeguard the environment. Please encourage the commercial salt applicators in your communities to become Green SnowPro certified by getting in touch with Aubrey Voelker by emailing salt@des.nh.gov.