Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Kristine Stepenuck


Road salt and other products used for winter maintenance in the Northeastern United States and Canada can impact ecosystems, pose risks to aquatic life, and create human health concerns. In response to these impacts and rising cost of materials, many municipalities have adopted preventative best management practices (BMPs) that reduce the amount of application materials used, save money, and/or provide a similar level of service and safety. Private companies that maintain parking lots and private roadways also contribute to the increasing chloride concentrations seen in the northeastern United States and Canada, but the practices of these companies have largely not been previously assessed.

This mixed-methods study focused on private contractors in the Lake Champlain Basin in Vermont and New York who maintain parking lots, driveways, and roadways. A census and interviews were used to characterize practices used by private contractors and to identify key factors that drive their decision-making processes.

A literature review was conducted to understand winter maintenance practices including recommended BMPs, potential environmental impacts and ways that contractors may be incentivized to adopt reduced-salt practices. The literature review informed the development of a census of winter maintenance companies in the Lake Champlain Basin. Contractors most often reported maintaining parking lots and roadways, and most commonly applying sand and salt. Physical snow removal techniques and adjustable material application rates were commonly adopted BMPs. Other BMPs including proactive applications, calibrating equipment, and using brine were infrequently adopted.

In addition, the study examined the motivations and barriers contractors have to adopt recommended BMPs through qualitative and quantitative methods. Commonly reported motivations included perceived liability or safety concerns, customer request or expectations, and cost. Commonly reported barriers included cost, time, and customer requests or expectations. Across census and interview results, companies that focus on commercial lots and individuals who learn management practices through in-person trainings or online resources were found to use more recommended BMPs than other groups. Results of the study informed the development of outreach recommendations to increase private contractors’ adoption of BMPs and to lessen road salt use. These included: developing online resources, annual conferences, and reoccurring in-person trainings.



Number of Pages

124 p.