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April 2, 2013

New Hampshire works to reduce road salt use

State transportation officials say progress is being made to resolve water quality issues in towns along the Interstate 93 corridor, but more needs to be done.

To help tackle the problem, the state Department of Environmental Services is offering $2.2 million in grants to help protect drinking water in several Southern New Hampshire towns.

The towns include Salem, Windham, Londonderry and Derry, according to Holly Green, a DES grant coordinator.

The towns are already working together to reduce the salt used to melt ice and snow on roadways, avoiding contamination of waterways along the I-93 corridor, Derry Public Works director Michael Fowler said.

Use of road salt and stormwater runoff have been linked to water quality problems in the decades since the highway was built.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Christopher Clement and Sen. James Rausch, R-Derry, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said at a transportation forum in Derry that more funding is need to finish the $770 million project to widen I-93 between Salem and Manchester.

As construction continues, cutting back on the amount of road salt on the highway remains a top priority, Rausch said.

“We have been trying to mitigate the salt use for some time,” he said. “One of the biggest problems where there is a problem is Cobbetts Pond.”

But an even bigger priority is reducing the amount used on local roads and on private property, especially parking lots, Rausch said.

Small amounts of salt used to melt ice on blacktop and sidewalks can contribute to a much larger contamination problem.

“We do have to control how much salt is put down in the parking lot if we really want to solve the water issue,” Rausch said.

Runoff from parking lots is contaminating local waters, he said,

A bill sponsored by Rep. John O’Connor, R-Derry, to limit the liability of business owners and others who use road salt has been stalled in committee, Rausch said.

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