Norwich Sidewalks Turning Blue This Winter

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When it gets really cold, people, it’s said, turn blue.

Well, in Norwich, so do the sidewalks, after they have been treated with de-icer. Town Manager Neil Fulton says there’s a good reason for that.

"The purpose of the blue is so we can see it. It could have been red and green.  I’ve kidded some people that come next Christmas is we’re going to ….do red and green instead of blue-maybe we’ll be patriotic and do all three colors." Fulton said.

He’s had some poly-syllabic explaining to do about the day-glo liquid brine the town is experimenting with this year.

"So it’s 30 percent magnesium chloride plus the corn carbohydrates that lowers the freezing temperature of it which means it’s more effective at lower temperatures. It’s not as slick as other products." he said.

Fulton says this mixture has anti-corrosive agents which makes it more environmentally friendly than the typically applied sodium chloride, and he says it does not harm pets who lick it. 

"We’re hopeful that if the costs are right and our experience as an effective de-icing agent are right it’s something we will use in the future because it’s going to cause less harm to the vegetation next to the sidewalks," Fulton said.

The product, sold as "Caliber M 1000,"  may not have caught on in  Vermont yet, but it has been tested in western states. A report for the Colorado Department of Transportation finds that the de-icer contains some phosophorus, ammonia, and organic matter, which may impact watersheds, but adds that any potential problems are, quote, "not profound or irreversible." Town Manager Fulton says Norwich will study the effects before switching long term.

But some local merchants aren’t crazy the way it looks. Amy Lems owns EcoSalon, where she avoids toxic products.

"Blue?" Lems wondered aloud. "Maybe people think blue is prettier than the yucky brown of sand. Frankly, I would rather have a little bit of clean-up with something that we know is neutral, such as sand, that’s brown and not as attractive. But we absolutely know that it’s not going to cause problems down the road."

Lems worries that we may not fully know how the blue de-icer affects the environment.

Trudging through the slush after school, ten year old Jack Reichert wishes it were more rainbow-like.

"Why not make, just put a bunch of different colors in so it can be a mix?" he asked. " Instead of blue. Of all the colors, why blue?"

His brother disagrees, saying he likes the blue hue and hopes it keeps people from falling down.



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