OLR Research Report

The Connecticut General Assembly


February 24, 1994 94-R-0278


FROM: Kevin Rasch, Research Fellow

Michael Paulhus, Research Fellow

RE: Road Salt and Sand

You asked how other states regulate road salt and sand, particularly purchasing, storing, spreading, collecting and disposing of it.

We contacted the Salt Institute and department of transportation (DOT) officials in the following 22 states to determine how they regulate salt and sand: Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.


State policies regarding salt and sand vary, in part due to the structure of transportation departments. Some states allow highway department districts to develop and implement salt and sand policies; other's policies vary by the type of road.

Most states purchase salt and sand through the DOT purchasing divisions in conjunction with state departments of administrative services, commonly on the basis of the lowest qualified bid received from vendors.

Most state policies regarding salt and sand storage are influenced by a concern for surface water and ground water contamination by salt. Nineteen of the 22 states we contacted regulate storage; three do not. Four states store all of their salt supplies in sheds, and these states, along with three others, are attempting to place all supplies of both salt and sand in sheds.

Salt and sand use is widely accepted as the most effective method of dealing with snow and ice. Still, three states have no standing policy for salt and sand use. The others have written policies all with different levels of sophistication, particularly with respect to application rates and techniques. Maine, New York, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin have the most detailed policies.

Recovery and disposal of road salt and sand is a concern of most states surveyed. All allow salt to dissipate within the environment, but most require that the levels of salt in water supplies be monitored. None have regulations or written polices regarding the recovery of sand. In Connecticut, as in most states, sand that is recovered from street sweeping is classified as solid waste and disposed of in landfills.


Purchasing procedures and costs for salt and sand are similar in most states, including Connecticut, with contracts awarded to the lowest qualified bidder, through established bidding and purchasing policies.

State DOTs divide states into highway districts. The most common practice is for individual districts to estimate the quantities of salt and sand required. Estimates are based on specific local needs and conditions, quantities consumed in the past, and the forecasted severity of the weather. Requests are then forwarded to the DOT purchasing office and processed through the state administrative department. In Connecticut, contracts are awarded by the purchasing division of the Department of Transportation. The Department of Administrative Services is responsible for advertising and collecting bids. The most significant deviation from this general policy is Virginia which owns several salt and sand quarries which it uses when it can not buy materials from private suppliers at acceptable costs.

Costs for salt and sand vary depending upon the type of material and quantity purchased, as well as the geographic location of the purchaser. The national average is $30 per ton for salt and $5 per ton for sand. Western states with large natural salt supplies pay less than the average. For example, Utah and Nevada pay approximately $20 per ton for road salt. Connecticut pays $38 per ton for salt and $8 per ton for sand. Massachusetts pays between $30 and $35 per ton; Vermont pays $40 per ton. Hardened salt, which produces less dust, is used in areas with air pollution concerns and is slightly more expensive.

The cost of sand depends on the type and quantity purchased. Sand that is screened to a smaller size is slightly more expensive. Screened sand and cinder costs approximately $5 per ton. There appears to be no regional variations in the cost of sand, but, the size of the sand and the quantity purchased affect the price. Connecticut DOT pays more than the national average because it buys relatively little sand.


There is a wide range in the detail which states regulate the storage of salt and sand. The form of regulation includes policy guidelines, agency regulations, and statutes. Several states, particularly Arkansas, Montana, and Utah, do not closely regulate storage. Policies in these states have evolved out of practice and are not the result of specifically designed goals. Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin have the most detailed storage regulations.

State regulations are designed to mitigate the potential environmental hazards from salt contamination. Although policies are targeted at salt, it is common practice to mix salt with sand during storage to prevent freezing. As a result, some states store treated mixtures in the same manner as salt.

Salt and sand can be stockpiled outside or stored inside sheds. Stockpiles, which can be covered or uncovered, are the most common storage method. All of the states we examined have some stockpiles. States without extensive shed facilities use stockpiles as necessary. Connecticut stores all of its salt in sheds, while sand is stockpiled. Stockpiled sand is treated with salt during storage and is monitored for potential effects from runoff.


Several states have little regulation of stockpiles, covered or uncovered. Of them, Arkansas, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah make the most extensive use of uncovered stockpiles.

The Salt Institute has voluntary salt storage guidelines for stockpiles. Some states with detailed regulations, including Virginia, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Wisconsin, appear to use the guidelines as a standard. Stockpile sites are evaluated to determine potential environmental effects on surface water and ground water. Stockpiles are constructed with drainage systems to prevent contact between salt and storm water runoff from adjacent terrain. Stockpiles are placed on stable, drained pads constructed to achieve low permeability. The stockpiles themselves may be designed in any number of ways depending upon site characteristics, equipment and unloading methods.

Covered stockpiles ensure the quality of the salt, by preventing contact with precipitation. They also minimize storm water runoff from the stockpile. Covers are commonly made of canvas, polyethylene and synthetic fiber materials.

Storage Sheds

Storage sheds are large warehouses in which salt and sand is stored, loaded, and unloaded. Sheds protect equipment, materials and personnel from the elements. They facilitate the handling of salt and sand and provide a greater degree of protection to the environment. Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin make the most extensive use of shed storage.

Connecticut, Indiana, and Wisconsin store all of their salt inside sheds. Vermont is converting all of its sand stockpiles to shed storage. They have 25 newly constructed sheds with a goal of 61, at a cost of approximately $80,000 per shed. In 1987, Wisconsin built 151 new salt storage sheds, and repaired 19 others at a cost of over $7.4 million. Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin have plans to store all of their salt and sand in sheds.

Massachusetts has a standard construction plan for chemical storage sheds including those used to store salt. The plan specifies materials, dimensions, and construction techniques. Sheds are constructed with impervious sealed floors, controlled drainage and solidly constructed walls and roofs.


All of the states we surveyed use salt and sand to some degree, and all but three have formal policies regarding their use. Each has its own practice of salt and sand use based on common factors, such as the type and location of road, the amount of snow or ice on the road, temperature, and time of day. General pollution discharge statutes and regulations for the prevention of drinking water contamination apply to both storage and application of salt and sand. Many DOT maintenance divisions follow policies that restrict spreading of salt and sand near reservoirs, water shed areas, bridges, and urban areas. These policies are often developed at the local level as a response to local ordinances and conditions.

States Without Policies

Arkansas, North Dakota, and Ohio do not have written department policies for salt and sand use. Arkansas observes a practice that has evolved over time without specific regulations. North Dakota has low traffic rates and uses less salt and sand than other states. Because of low usage North Dakota does not monitor application rates. Ohio gives a great deal of authority to local highway districts to determine application rates.

States With Policies

Three states, Michigan, Nevada, and Utah, use a high level of salt. Michigan uses 450 pounds of a salt and sand mixture per lane mile under severe conditions. Nevada and Utah use 100% salt.

Twelve states, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia, use a salt and sand mixture with a rate that typically falls within a range of 250 to 300 pounds per lane mile during snow and ice conditions.

New York, Vermont, and Wisconsin use advanced technology to tailor salt and sand application based on pavement temperatures and thickness of snow or ice. As a result, application rates range from 50 to 300 pounds per lane mile. Vermont uses infrared gauges for measuring pavement temperature, rather than air temperature, to determine application rates. Wisconsin has a winter weather information system that uses advanced technology to assist in the decision making processes for snow and ice removal. Washington has an informal no-salt policy and maintains approximately 95% of state highways without salt.

Most states use calcium chloride and calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) to enhance the effectiveness of the salt used for clearing snow and ice from roads. CMA is effective and environmentally neutral. CMA costs approximately $600 per ton, compared to salt which costs approximately $30 per ton.

Massachusetts has studied contamination of drinking water wells due to highway salting. The Federal Highway Administration has information available on chemical de-icing alternatives. A Nevada study outlining environmental alternatives for the Tahoe Basin is available, as well Salt Institute materials. If you wish any of this information please let us know.

CGS 22a-474 requires the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to develop standards for the storage and application of road salt for the purpose of minimizing water supply contamination from storage and usage. The regulations have not yet been adopted.


Few states have policies regarding recovery and disposal and they are more concerned with sand than salt. Sand may accumulate in sewer drains and therefore is discouraged in urban areas. States rely on county and municipal governments to recover sand and salt as needed. In most states sand is treated as solid waste material and disposed of in landfills.

The notable exception to this policy is Nevada. A comprehensive study of the environmental effects of salt and sand effects has resulted in an aggressive program to remove snow accumulations and to recover salt and sand from the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Connecticut has a comprehensive street sweeping program. State roads and interstate highways are swept annually. Most local towns also have annual sweeping programs. No state law or regulation specifically addresses disposal of sand from street sweeping. But, the sweepings fall within the definition of solid waste and, because they are contaminated with potential water pollutants, must be disposed of in landfills. The DEP is currently considering other disposal alternatives.