Let’s face it – we’re in it for the long haul. Winter is about us and the cold just repeats, day after day. This means that snow and ice and probably slush is everywhere. The worst though is black ice. Slick and mostly invisible; it lies in wait searching for an unsuspecting vehicle or a pedestrian walking way too cocky. Without delay, the cars smash and the cry goes out, “Man (or woman) down!” usually with some form of back injury. It’s in these times that lawyers begin to sharpen their pencils and terror abounds in fear of the lawsuit. Down goes the salt upon the walkways and even though the city has a tight budget, out go the trucks coating the roads with a fine patina of white dust.
I see the affect on our brick sidewalks at Brown Square, and at the Post Office and in front of our banks with their fancy brick walkways – and in front of our restaurants and shops. Apparently, no one has bothered to tell anyone what a terrible mistake this is to our city.
Unfortunately, this behavior of putting down salt is extremely injurious to the environment. Most of the salt is in some form treated with residual chemicals – and filters down into our soil and our streams and eventually to the river. Ugly splotches of salt litter the first floors of homes and it seems the stuck just adds to the corrosion of our cars.
On top of everything, it is especially bad for the Newburyport Historic District. One of our major features unique to our city is our historic brick sidewalks.
Salt on brick is extremely bad. Salt takes the moisture that is found in masonry and pulls it out until the brick becomes brittle and is susceptible to shattering. You can see this process by looking at our downtown sidewalks as salt is spread, A condition called Cake Icing begins to form. You can see it all over town and it is attacking our historic neighborhoods faster than a house-flipping developer. It won’t be long to see a brick here and there, including the newer styles, crumpled and making walking extremely difficult as brick shards lie dangerously about.
YOU NEED TO STOP USING SALT!
Well, what do you use? We’ve got to use something – we can’t have pedestrians hurting themselves in the city and in our neighborhoods!
You can use sand. It is very inexpensive to purchase at Home Depot or Lowes. I have even found, when I have been tight on money, that sand from the quarry off March’s Hill has been quite adequate. The sand can harmlessly wash off into the Merrimack River without adding chemicals to the river; and when you sweep it or it drains off, its fine grains fill the gaps in the brick making it as firm as concrete. And because sand is very porous in itself, water can percolate down into the soil under the brick. (Assuming you don’t have a bituminous under-layment.) And of course, your bricks will last far longer when not under the stressful effect of salt.
So, there you have it, you can trek salt into your house until it gets everywhere and leaves those ugly stains, or you can trek in sand like a Plum Islander.
A quick sweep with a broom beats anytime having to see your bricks disintegrating!
Of course, there are those amongst us who cheat and won’t play the game, who will pack their bags and head for southern climates.
Just remember! You’ll come back sometime and will have to deal with all those shattered bricks!
Let’s all of us do it right the first time and start spreading the sand.