Ron Wright contributes to recent National Geographic article

An unusually severe winter across much of the United States left no shortage of snow and ice on the nation's roadways. The "polar vortex" and other weather patterns that brought winter misery to drivers also has rekindled interest in salt and its use for melting accumulated snow and ice.

In a recent National Geographic article titled "The Surprising History of Salt," writer Brian Clark Howard talked with ITD's Ron Wright about salt and the current scramble for it, particularly in the East and Midwest.

"Most public works managers start winter with 125 percent of the road salt they think they'll need. They protect the salt with tarps or by storing it in buildings," Wright told Howard.

He said that substitutes such as beet juice or cheese brine don't eliminate the need for rock salt but can be used in combination to speed up melting or cut down on the amount of salt needed.

Wright knows something about salt. He is an internationally acclaimed chemist who has spent 25 years leading the department's materials and chemistry lab at Headquarters. He also is a founding member of the Pacific Northwest Snowfighters Association and has made technical presentations regarding deicing materials and other subjects to transportation officials in the U.S. and abroad.

Howard's article for National Geographic looked at where all that salt – table, rock and sea – comes from, mining a natural salt "stash" lurking beneath the city of Detroit and managing the salt supply.

Published 2-21-14