Warwick nixes salt ban idea


  • Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Saturday, February 03, 2018

WARWICK — A proposal to ban road salt in the village center has been rejected by the Selectboard, but the town will provide bottled water to some residents who feel their health is threatened by salt in their wells.

According to Town Coordinator David Young and Salt in Drinking Water Committee Chairman Ted Cady, the Selectboard approved purchasing bottled water for residents who have medical problems, primarily high blood pressure, that they believe are aggravated by high sodium levels in their wells.

“That’s a good step,” Cady said.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) standard, when it comes to purchasing bottled water for residents, is 3.5 gallons per week, Young said.

While Young said there was no end date built into the Selectboard’s vote, he said the town will provide bottled water “at shortest until we demonstrate it’s not our fault” and “at longest until we come up with a better solution.”

Interest in eliminating road salt in the village center came after testimony two weeks ago from residents whose wells have high sodium content. The committee has contended the high levels are caused by road salt, although Young has said there’s “no empirical evidence” regarding the sodium’s source.

Ask the experts

During the Jan. 16 meeting, the Selectboard voted to table discussion of the proposed salt ban until after a Jan. 23 presentation by Michael Smith, a technical training specialist with Baystate Roads. While Smith said he didn’t want to get involved in town politics, he was concerned about not using any salt or a comparable melting agent.

“I think not using any melting agent on a hard surface road makes it very hard, if not impossible, to maintain it in a reasonably safe manner,” Smith said.

“The Selectboard voted 2-1, in part because of (Smith’s) workshop, to oppose the petition for a no sodium chloride zone in the center of town,” Cady said of Monday’s meeting. Young said Selectman Lawrence “Doc” Pruyne supported the ban.

Part of the reason for the vote, Young said, was Smith’s concern over the Salt in Drinking Water Committee’s proposal to allow the Selectboard, police chief or another Selectboard appointee to “declare an ice emergency and authorize the minimum amount of salt application for the center of town.” Smith said a highway department would need 17 tons of salt on one lane mile to remove an inch of ice, and that working from the top down in salt application is seven to 10 times more expensive than working from the bottom up by laying salt as a storm arrives.

For now, Young said the Highway Department will continue to use magnesium chloride treated salt, which can cut down on sodium chloride use. Meanwhile, Young said he’ll be contacting MassDOT, a recommendation from Smith, for the state’s help in determining the cause of the wells’ high sodium levels.

As for the Salt in Drinking Water Committee, Cady said it’s incumbent on the group “to come up with alternatives to sodium chloride salt that would be as effective and less of a health threat.” The committee will  meet again Saturday.

Reach Shelby Ashline at: sashline@recorder.com

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