Nearly a decade ago, during the initiation of the Interstate 93 widening project in New Hampshire, the state Department of Transportation conducted an environmental impact study, which identified four watersheds as having elevated levels of chloride. The elevated levels were high enough to be harmful to aquatic life and triggered a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study conducted by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES), which calculated that a reduction of between 25 and 45 percent salt use was needed in order to meet water quality standards while doubling the number of highway lanes. The TMDL report also revealed that up to 50 percent of the salt load was coming from parking lots, driveways, and private roads.
To help address the over-application of salt, NHDES partnered with the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Technology Transfer Center to create the Green SnowPro training course. The course, which mirrors a similar effort in Minnesota, was designed to educate commercial salt applicators on how to reduce overall salt use while maintaining public safety.
In order to gain a better understanding of the snow and ice management industry, NHDES formed the 1-93 Salt Reduction Work Group consisting of state, municipal, and private sector representatives who perform winter maintenance activities within the impaired watersheds. NHDES quickly learned that private companies were using excessive amounts of salt to help reduce their potential exposure to liability in slip and fall lawsuits.
Hearing the liability concerns of these private companies, NHDES began working on legislation that would provide liability protection for these salt application companies and mitigate the risk of using less salt. Legislation was enacted in 2013 which mirrors the liability protections provided to ski areas and includes a requirement that, in order to receive the liability protection, individuals must have taken the Green SnowPro training course and received a Certified Salt Applicator certificate.
Results to Date:
The NHDES salt applicator certificate carries the responsibility of annually reporting salt use to NHDES and attending a refresher training course every two years. The Salt Applicator Certificate has proven valuable to the private contractors as well as their clients and insurance carriers. To date, 650 individuals have become Certified Salt Applicators. This is a first-in-the-nation program that is helping to substantially reduce wintertime road salt usage and improve water quality.
As a way to foster professionalism within the industry, NHDES and UNH partnered to host the first annual New Hampshire Salt Symposium in the fall of 2014, which was attended by more than 110 snow and ice management professionals. Planning is underway now for the third annual event.
The New Hampshire Certified Green SnowPro Program continues to evolve and grow into a stakeholder-driven initiative backed by strategic legislative elements; agency, municipal, private sector, and nonprofit organization partners; and a collaborative desire to reduce chloride impacts to surface waters.