Big Salt: Short-term Benefit; Long-term Damage

Go Lean Commentary

“What good is a birthright when I’m starving now?” – Bible Drama of Esau and Jacob; Genesis 25: 19 – 34.

A subject like snow removal should have no significance in the tropical climate of the Caribbean. Right?

Yet, this commentary is more attuned to Big Business than it is related to snow removal. The subject of impetuous governance is of extreme importance to the Caribbean. For this reason, the art and science of snow removal teaches a lot of lessons for tropical destinations.

During winter months in northern climates, snow is the reality. The snow (and ice) must be managed and removed. Roads and pavements will ice over, making them slippery and dangerous to drive and walk on. So local authorities will often remove snow/ice from major roads, by plowing and de-icing. The most common de-icer is rock salt.

Halite, the most common form of rock salt, is a brittle, isotropic sediment that can be found in evaporated piles left in lake beds, playas, seas, oceans, and mined from underground. It forms cubic crystals that can be broken up and refined for numerous purposes, though one of the most common is for its use as a de-icing agent. Rock salt is relatively inexpensive, abundant, and mostly for these reasons is used extensively by local authorities to de-ice the roads. In Detroit-USA, locally mined rock salt is Big Business.

When rock salt is placed in snow, or on top of ice, it will naturally form a bond and become brine, a mixture of water and salt. Brine has a lower freezing point than water, meaning the mixture will melt and remain unfrozen, an effect called freezing point depression, unless the temperature drops significantly.

While the freezing point for water is 32 °F (0 °C), the freezing point for salt is −6.02 °F (−21.12 °C).

Another good reason that rock salt is used to clear roads is to improve traction for road vehicles. Rock salt is grainy and therefore allows the tire tread of vehicles to get a better grip on the road surface.

These are all short-term benefits. The list of long-term damage is extensive; see the following blog/article here:

1. Title: Worries on the use of rock salt as a winter de-icer (One Blogger’s Views)
(Retrieved 03-05-2015:

CU Blog - Big Salt - Short-term Benefit; Long-term Damage - Photo 1

The spreading of rock salt as a de-icer for our roads is something that has been undertaken every year in the UK for as long as I can remember. Local authorities up and down the country have a responsibility to keep our roads clear of ice and snow, as much as is practically possible. It was obviously decided some time ago that this was the most cost effective method of doing so.

False economy
CU Blog - Big Salt - Short-term Benefit; Long-term Damage - Photo 2As a pure costing method measured solely against the alternatives this probably was the best way to ensure value for money for tax payers but there would seem to have been no account taken of the substantive consequential costs that come with using a toxic and corrosive substance on our roads. Rock salt consists primarily of sodium chloride (salt) and it is the sodium and the chloride that cause the problems.

The real costs
The major problem in my view is the damage salt can cause to our water sources and water based eco systems. When the snow and ice melts the sodium chloride in the rock salt doesn’t just disappear, it contaminates water supplies whether by direct run-off into surface water drains or by moving through the soil and groundwater into streams and other natural water locations. To put the contamination in perspective, just one teaspoonful of rock salt will permanently contaminate five gallons of water and once it is in the water it cannot be removed unless by expensive methods. The rock salt therefore can eventually damage our drinking water and affects aquatic life and other organisms that have not adapted to living in salt water.

A problem that is close to my heart in relation to the use of rock salt is the risk to pets. Rock salt can cause severe irritation and inflammation to pets’ paws and when the natural reaction of your pet is to lick the affected area then this can cause sickness and other related problems. If the rock salt is directly ingested, and this can easily happen from a build-up of residue at the side of roads, then this is highly toxic and can lead to severe reactions and even death.

Another significant problem with rock salt is the corrosive nature of salt and the effects it has on cars and the under carriage components of cars such as brake pipes are well known to motorists. This damage also applies to road structures such concrete and metal structures such as bridges. Rock salt causes ongoing damage in these areas the cost of which can only be substantive.

If you have ever put salt down to kill weeds then you will fully understand the damage it must be doing to plants, vegetation and the soil itself of all areas adjacent to roadways. It is also harmful to insects and small animals that inhabit the roadway eco systems.

Spread the word, not the salt
If the real cost of using rock salt was to be determined I am sure it would cease immediately as the costs would far outweigh the benefits and an alternative would be used. The point is that there are alternatives to rock salt; we just need to make the authorities aware of this. If you want to check out one source for an alternative you can visit


2. Encyclopedia Reference for Snow/Surface Treatment

For snow removal, roads are also treated by spreading various materials on the surface. These materials generally fall into two categories: chemical and inert. Chemical (including salt) distribution induces freezing-point depression, causing ice and snow to melt at a lower temperature. Chemical treatment can be applied as a preventive measure and/or after snowfall. Inert materials (i.e. sand, brash, slag) make the surface irregular to improve traction. Both types can be applied together, but the inert materials tend to lower traction once snow/ice has melted.

Chemical treatment materials include:

In the European Union, 98% of chemical treatment materials used in 2000 were sodium chloride in various forms. For colder temperatures, calcium chloride (CaCl2) is added to NaCl in some countries, but deployment is limited as it costs about 6 times as much as sodium chloride. Other substances were used rarely and experimentally. Alternative substances (urea, alcohols, glycols) are often used at airports.[23] In recent years, Geomelt, a combination of salt brine and beet juice that is otherwise considered a waste product has been used for pretreatment.[24]

Inert spreadings can be:

The choice of treatment may include consideration of the effect on vegetation, pets and other animals, the local watershed, and effectiveness with regard to speed and temperature. Some chemicals can degrade concrete, metals, and other materials. The resulting meltwater and slush can cause frost heaving if it re-freezes, which can also damage pavement. Inert materials can damage vehicles and create dust.

As an example, in the Czech Republic during the winter season of 2000/2001, net material expenditure for road treatment was: 168,000 tonnes of salt (mostly NaCl), 348 000 tonnes of sand and crushed stone and 91 000 tonnes of other materials like slag. In Ireland, the annual expenditure of salt was 30 000 tonnes. Switzerland reports their annual expenditure as 600 grammes of salt to every square metre of roads on average.[23]

Side effects
De-icing chemicals and inert materials need to be selected and applied with care.

Chemicals may react with infrastructure, the environment, and vehicles. Chlorides corrode steel and aluminum in reinforced concrete, structures and vehicles. Acetates can cause asphalt stripping, weakening the bond between asphalt binder and aggregate. Sand and grit can clog pavement joints and cracks, preventing pavement from expanding in the summer and increasing stress in the pavement.[25]

Salts can be toxic to plants and aquatic life. Sand can alter aquatic habitats where roads are near streams and lakes. Acetates can reduce oxygen levels in smaller water bodies, stressing aquatic animal life. Sand can be ground by tires into very fine particulate matter and become airborne, contributing to air pollution.[26][27]

While this may appear to be an issue of local roads, and subsequent damage – see VIDEO in the Appendix as it relates to damages to cars – it can be argued that actually this is an issue of Crony-Capitalism.

One consequence of Crony-Capitalism is that it short-changes the future for immediate gains, or profits. This paradox has been a constant concern of this commentary. Like Esau in the Bible drama above, many impetuously ignore their birthright – or the birthrights of their children – for immediate benefits.

CU Blog - Big Salt - Short-term Benefit; Long-term Damage - Photo 3Sometimes too, the immediate benefits are no benefit at all. Consider again the Detroit scenario. Their roads are in total disarray; (the whole State of Michigan for that matter). Use of rock salt causes direct (and almost immediate) damage to roads. Solutions are being sought to assuage the challenge, but relief must come on the backs of the everyday man: increases to gas taxes and the issuance of new bonds.

(In North Texas, the transportation officials do not use salt to de-ice their roads and highways. They use sand only.)

This consideration aligns with the book Go Lean … Caribbean; this book serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the technocratic Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU). This empowerment effort represents a change for the region, calling on all 30 member-state governments in the region to confederate and provide their own solutions in the areas of economics, security and governance. The book directly advocates for lean facilitation of infrastructural needs. The subject for roads and bridges fit under the category of Public Works for the Greater Good; so decisions in this regards should never be based on short-term benefits only or lining someone’s pocket.

The CU/Go Lean roadmap defines these 3 prime directives as follows:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to protect the resultant economic engines against “bad actors”.
  • Improvement of Caribbean governance to support these engines.

The purpose of this commentary is to draw reference to the governing principles used in northern communities regarding snow removal and how best-practices are ignored just to placate some immediate need; and immediate profits. Considering the long-term effects on the environment, the next generations’ birthright is being sold for a “bowl of soup”.

This is not an issue of “snow”; this is an issue of ethos.

Just who is the influence behind the “salt” decisions? Big Mining operations and Road Construction companies. This group can collectively be referred to as Big Salt. This is just another example of Crony-Capitalism, where public-long term benefits are shortchanged for private-short-term gains. Is Big Salt a conspiracy or just a coincidental fact of modern life in colder climates? While it is only honorable to give Big Salt the benefit of any doubt, the anecdotal account is consistent in one big American, Canadian and European city after another.

Consider the issues being debated in Michigan at this time. The State (plus counties and cities) must find new monies to pay for the overdue maintenance on the roads, tunnels and bridges. The infrastructure is collapsing.

Just “follow the money” is a constant refrain among conspiracy theorists.  Besides, many sources – including this Go Lean book and accompanying blogs – have reported on the “bad intent” in the American eco-system, associated with Crony-Capitalism. (Though the use of rock salt is not just an American issue).

This negative community ethos is an example for the Caribbean to avoid in emulating American society.

The book Go Lean…Caribbean asserts that the Caribbean region must do better; we must not allow the US to take the lead for our own nation-building, that American capitalistic interest tends to hijack policies intended for the Greater Good. This assessment is logical considering the realities of so many of these “Big Corporate Bullies” where public policy is set to benefit private parties. The subject of Big Salt is just another example. Consider this chart of well-documented cases of bad corporate behavior:

Big Media Cable companies conspire to keep rates high; kill net neutrality; textbook publishers practice price gouging; Hollywood insists on big tax breaks/subsidies for on-location shooting.
Big Oil While lobbying for continuous tax subsidies, the industry have colluded to artificially keep prices high and garner rocket profits ($38+ Billion   every quarter).
Big Box Retail   chains impoverish small merchants on Main Street with Antitrust-like tactics, thusly impacting community jobs.
Big Pharma Chemo-therapy cost $20,000+/month; and the War against Cancer is imperiled due to industry profit insistence.
Big Tobacco Cigarettes are not natural tobacco but rather latent with chemicals to spruce addiction.
Big Agra Agribusiness concerns bully family farmers and crowd out the market; plus fight common sense food labeling efforts.
Big Data Brokers for internet and demographic data clearly have no regards to privacy concerns.
Big Banks Wall Street’s damage to housing and student loans are incontrovertible.
Big Weather Overblown hype of “Weather Forecasts” to dictate commercial transactions.
Big Real Estate Preserving MLS for Real Estate brokers only, forcing 6% commission rates, when the buyers and sellers can meet without them.

The Go Lean book, and accompanying blog commentaries, go even deeper and hypothesize that American economic models are dysfunctional from the Caribbean perspective. The American wheels of commerce stages the Caribbean in a “parasite” role; imperiling regional industrialization even further. The US foreign policy for the Caribbean is to incentivize consumption of American products, and serve as a playground for their leisure.

The Go Lean roadmap provides turn-by-turn directions on how to forge the elevation of the Caribbean region from parasite to the preferred role of protégé. This point is made early in the Declaration of Interdependence (Page 11) with these statements:

iii.    Whereas the natural formation of the landmass for our society is that of an archipelago of islands, inherent to this nature is the limitation of terrain and the natural resources there in. We must therefore provide “new guards” and protections to ensure the efficient and effective management of these resources.

vi.    Whereas the finite nature of the landmass of our lands limits the populations and markets of commerce, by extending the bonds of brotherhood to our geographic neighbors allows for extended opportunities and better execution of the kinetics of our economies through trade. This regional focus must foster and promote diverse economic stimuli.

The Go Lean book purports that the Caribbean can – and must – do better than Crony-Capitalism. The vision of the CU is a confederation of the 30 member-states of the Caribbean to do the heavy-lifting of optimizing economic-security-governing engines. We can weld more power and influence collaborating and consolidating Public Works projects. The
 Go Lean book details the community ethos to adopt, plus the executions of the following strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to elevate Caribbean society, and make our homeland a better place to live, work, play:

Community Ethos – Deferred Gratification Page 21
Community Ethos – Consequences of Choices Lie in the Future Page 21
Community Ethos – Privacy   versus Public Protection Page 23
Community Ethos – Anti-Bullying and Mitigation Page 23
Community Ethos – Lean Operations Page 24
Community Ethos – Ways to Improve Sharing Page 36
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Greater Good Page 37
Strategy – Vision – Unified and Integrated Single Market Page 45
Strategy – Mission – Prepare for the Eventuality   of Natural Disasters Page 45
Strategy – Mission – Protect the Homeland’s Natural   Resources Page 45
Tactical – Separation of Powers – Emergency Management Page 75
Tactical – Separation of Powers – Public Works & Infrastructure Oversight Page 82
Implementation – Ways to Pay for Change Page 101
Implementation – Ways to Benefit from   Globalization – Interdependence Page 119
Advocacy – Ways to Grow the Economy Page 151
Advocacy – Ways to Create Jobs Page 152
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Governance Page 169
Advocacy – Ways to Better Manage the Social Contract Page 171
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Public Works Page 177
Advocacy – Ways to Improve for Natural Disasters Page 184
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Wall Street – Finance Public Works Page 200
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Main Street Page 201
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Urban Living Page 234
Appendix – Caribbean (Puerto Rico) Diaspora in Northern States Page 304

The cited news article about Michigan struggles to find money to repair its salt-damaged roads is a topic of serious concern for Caribbean planners. This is another example of the benefit of observing and reporting on the turn-around of the once great City of Detroit.

While the US is the world’s largest Single Market economy, we want to only model some of the American example. We would rather foster a business climate to benefit the Greater Good, not just some special interest group. There are many Go Lean blog commentaries that have echoed this point, addressing the subject of the Caribbean avoiding American consequences. See sample here: Net Neutrality: It Matters Here … American Study: Homes Marketed via the MLS Sell for More American Media Fantasies versus Weather Realities A Christmas Present for the Banks from the Omnibus Bill Detroit’s M-1 Rail – Finally avoiding Plutocratic Auto Industry Solutions The Cost of Cancer Drugs Book Review: ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate’ The Criminalization of American Business A Textbook Case of Industry Price-gouging Health-care fraud in America; Criminals take $272 billion a year Lessons Learned from the American Airlines merger Student debt holds back many would-be home buyers 10 Things We Don’t Want from the US – American Self-Interest Policies

While the Caribbean region does not have to contend with snow removal tactics, we do have to manage the edicts associated with infrastructure (road) maintenance, industrial waste and environmental by-products. It’s important that we always consider the long view.

The book Go Lean…Caribbean posits that many problems of the region are too big for any one member-state to solve alone, that there is the need for the technocracy of the Caribbean Union Trade Federation. The purpose of this Go Lean/CU roadmap is to conquer the problems/challenges of modern day life and make the Caribbean homeland, a better place to live, work, and play.

Climate change is one such challenge.

We know that the short-term actions we do now, have long-term consequences. So we must act right!

Though we are on the frontline of the onslaughts of climate change weather challenges – think, hurricanes – we must demonstrate best-practices to manage our environment well and send the world the right message of prudence.

The Go Lean roadmap calls for some integration of the regional member-states, a strategy of confederation with a tactic of separation-of-powers between CU federal agencies and member-states’ governments. The roadmap calls for the integrated role for infrastructure planning, financing and maintenance. Surely there will be many maintenance decision where the short-term “pro and con” will have to be weighed against the long-term “pro and con” It is hoped we will always consider the long-term and not “sell out our birthright”.

The people and governing institutions of the Caribbean are hereby urged to take heed the exhortations in this commentary; and also to learn more, and do more, by leaning-in to this Go Lean roadmap for Caribbean empowerment.


Download the book Go Lean…Caribbean now!


Appendix – Road salt damages car undercarriage –

Published on Jan 9, 2014 – A simple substance that is supposed to protect you while driving in a winter storm could actually be costing you money. Reported for Omaha’s KETV NewsWatch 7.

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