Tiny Canary in a Freshwater Coal Mine

Departments - Notebook

A nearly microscopic creature could provide huge insights on the impact of rock salt on freshwater bodies. Plus, Minnesota acknowledges salt sources other than winter deicing.

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September 3, 2019

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Researchers at Maine’s Bowdoin College have begun studying the impact of road salt on that state’s freshwater bodies, according to a recent report (http://bit.ly/2xQ6RUa).

When compared to historic data, some of Maine's freshwater ecosystems, particularly those close to roads, have been testing higher for sodium chloride – i.e. rock salt.

To better understand how all this salt is affecting the chemistry of Maine's lake waters, a Bowdoin professor and two student assistants are collecting data this summer on a freshwater zooplankton called Daphnia. The tiny crustacean is like a canary in a coal mine and can indicate at what level a contaminant is unsafe for an ecosystem. Specifically, the research is looking for chloride (from rock salt) and calcium (naturally occurring but impacted by salt) levels in freshwater lakes and streams and the impact on the creatures’ tiny shells.

While weaker shells could indicate elevated chloride and low calcium levels, the researchers say at this point there are numerous other factors that could influence shell strength and more study is needed.

And in related news, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is working with partners to develop a Statewide Chloride Management Plan that will address the impact of salt on freshwater bodies.

What I found to be most interesting in this article is the acknowledgement that rock salt from winter snow and ice operations isn’t the only culprit tainting freshwater resources. According to a recent article in the Country Messenger (http://bit.ly/32rWbZT):

“While most people are familiar with the harmful impacts of winter road salt, it turns out there are also several other significant ways that chloride makes its way into our environment. Some surprising culprits include water softener salt, agricultural fertilizer, manure, industrial discharges from factories, and dust suppressants applied to dirt and gravel roads. In fact, a 2019 report by the University of Minnesota estimates that 65% of all chloride discharged into lakes and rivers by wastewater treatment plants (136,000 tons of chloride annually) comes from water softeners.”

This may be a critical fact in the defense of winter services if, in the future, regulating agencies place a target on the backs of commercial snow and ice professionals to limit rock salt usage.

According to the article, MPCA is asking the public to provide comments on the draft of the states proposed chloride management plan, which can be found at: www.pca.state.mn.us/water/draft-statewide-chloride-management-plan. Send comments via email to Eric Alms at eric.alms@state.mn.us.




Hot Stuff

Many snow contractors employ aerial drones in the field to give them an invaluable bird’s-eye view of a property. Now if those drones only shot flames…

Cleveland, Ohio-based flamethrower supplier Throwflame has introduced the TF-19 Wasp ($1,499), a flamethrower attachment for drones that can light up targets up to 25 feet away and shoot flames up to 100 seconds with its one-gallon fuel capacity.

Now, combing a flamethrower with a drone may seem like bad news, but the company is quick to point out real-world application like clearing power lines, remote agriculture burns, and pest management such as burning wasp nests, even snow and ice management.

Think about it. If your ops provide clients with the added service of clearing dangerous icicles out from underneath building overhands and entryways, then this could be the perfect tool. Check out the video and determine for yourself if this attachment is a good fit for your snow ops.




Case Named to “40 Under Forty”

The Providence Business News named Jason Case, president and CEO of Case Snow Management, one of its 2019 “40 under Forty.” According to the publication, the men and women — doctors and scientists, lawyers and bankers, engineers and builders and even a farmer — were selected from about 150 applicants based on career success and community involvement.

We honored Jason with a Leadership Award in 2017.

This is the 15th time that Providence Business News has recognized the next generation of the region’s business leaders.




Heavy Metal

Innovative gear from the industry’s leading manufacturers and suppliers.

After years of field testing and development, the Power Pusher TE is SnowEx's latest contribution to the heavy equipment market. The 8- and 10-foot wide models with large carrying capacities are designed for skid steers, wheel loaders, backhoes and tractors. They feature trip-edges with four extension springs along with two out double ribs at the trip spring to handle heavy loads and deliver cleaner scrapes down to the pavement.

The framing and 63-degree angle of attack are engineered for maximum scraping performance, and the design has been proven through years of field testing and development.

Other features of the Power Pusher TE include:

  • Six vertical support ribs maximize bucket impact strength and structural integrity
  • Ten-gauge steel moldboards offer strength
  • Side support posts prevent bending from accidental impact. High-quality industrial paint provides both salt- and UV-protection
  • Interchangeable attachments allow a single model to attach to any compatible skid-steer, wheel loader, backhoe or tractor, allowing users to utilize the same pusher plow across various types of equipment in their fleets.
  • Top-mounted, rubber back-drag edge accessory for pulling snow away from loading docks, doors and other tight spaces High-wear shoes allow the pushers to slide along the surface in fast working conditions