Forget salt: Wood chips for roads gaining traction in Rosemere
Rosemere’s new antidote to slippery winter roads is what the Swiss would call “a chip off the old block.”
Cheap, biodegradable, and produced here at home, wood chips – treated with magnesium chloride – are being test-driven as an alternative to corrosive products otherwise spread on Quebec’s roads in winter.
Road salt is widely considered to be the cheapest way to de-ice, but it causes corrosion, pollutes waterways, damages the foundation of buildings, and irritates the paws of our pets.
Wood chips scattered on icy concrete help increase tire traction, and will effectively disappear in the springtime – breaking down naturally with the elements.
“Citizens are telling us that it works well,” said Eric Westram, mayor of Rosemere. “It spreads much larger than it would salt, and stays on the ice for four or five days. Salt, basically, when it’s done its melting action, disappears.”
Experts say that salt is only effective if temperatures remain above minus 15 degrees. But tests show that wood chips are relatively unaffected by temperatures until they dip to the minus 30 mark.
As a riverside community, the town is actively looking for a functional alternative to road salt – but the pursuit hasn’t been easy.
Beet juice was proven to be an effective tool – until it was discovered that it stains roads. Salt, also a viable road option, can clog drainage systems.
In the name of experimentation, the town is only testing the chips on two of its streets.
“Both are close to the river, so there’s a dampness in the air. Mixed with the cold, it always produces ice,” Westram explained.
The town of Rosemere will wait until the end of winter to decide whether to make a permanent change in their winter maintenance.
Pending a final cost analysis, Rosemere’s officials are awaiting confirmation that the wood chips are worth their weight in salt.