South End Answers: What's Up with the Ice Melt This Year?

Ask a question you have about the neighborhood and get an answer in this weekly column. This week? Ice melt.

In this week's column of "," a new feature where we find the answers to your questions, reader Robert Rovenolt asked about the ice melt and whether it was a different substance this year in Boston. 

"[My question] concerns the different snow/ice melt the DPW spread on the streets during the last storm," he wrote. "It seems like a new substance that is now coating everything...cars, buildings and people when it blows in clouds down the street. It stings the eyes and I'm sure it's not good for are 4 pawed friends! What's up DPW?"

I reached out to the City of Boston, to the mayor's office and to the Boston Public Works Department. The mayor's spokesperson said there's nothing new or unusual happening with the snow/ice melt this year.

"Public Works places salt or a salt and water mixture called brine to the roads," wrote John Guilfoil in an email. "There are no other chemicals used to treat the roads."

Robert, hopefully that answers your question!

Got a question about the neighborhood you want answered? Submit it in the comments below. Each week Patch will pick a question to research and answer the following week. Add your question today!

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Kathryn Willmore February 04, 2013 at 12:03 PM
SOMETHING is different with the ice melt this year. Maybe it's the amount. After a storm a few weeks ago Darrmouth Street looked like a beach with all the ice melt on it. Had to be cleaned up with street sweepers.
SE Resident February 04, 2013 at 12:45 PM
There IS something different with the ice melt/salt brine this year. The crystals are much bigger and are coating everything after drying out - the buildings, parked cars, etc... Driving in the tunnels after the ice melt has dried is like driving in a dust-storm dramatically reducing the visibility in the tunnels. Also, my dog's paws have been getting much more irritated / burned this year - I've had to resort to carrying him home because he starts limping after just a few feet of exposure to the ice melt this year. He typically never had a problem in previous winters. I think the DPW should double-check in this issue because I have heard the same complaints from other tunnel commuters and dog owners.
JMc February 04, 2013 at 01:11 PM
I think the problem is more related to the small snowfall amounts. They city has to sand/salt even when we get 1/4 or 1/2 inch of snow. But that little snow quickly evaporates leaving a coating on the street. If we had more snow on the ground, the mixture would get trapped in the snow and stay around longer, or get washed away when the larger snowfall melts.
A P February 05, 2013 at 12:01 PM
There is definitely something different going on with the ice melt this year. If the material isn't different than usual then the city is using too much of it for the small amount of snow dustings we've been receiving this winter. The silverline was kicking up clouds of white dust yesterday morning and side streets were white with the stuff last night. The same has been happening with the treatment for the other snow dustings.
Sara Jacobi February 05, 2013 at 02:00 PM
@AP yeah it could be a different amount of the salt used. I don't think the city would be outright lying about this, but they could be putting down more than usual? At least we know no chemicals are used - it's just salt that they put down.


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