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St. Petersburg’s legislative council suggests using less chemical agents in the city’s streets


“Salty” questions arise every winter with St. Petersburg’s residents. Why turning beautiful white snow into slush, when roads are clear of ice? And how much would they need to spend this year on shoe care?


Alexander Burenin takes a look at “salty” snow – unpleasant, dangerous and unavoidable. 

Alexander Burenin, reporter: “What kind of “salt” is used in the streets of St. Petersburg? When winter comes, and the first snow appears, and the first freezing temperatures hit, utilities services put special chemical agents on the roads to de-ice them. After that snow clearing machines take to the streets, leaving piles of this substance – of different colors – at the sides of the roads. It’s not necessarily dark or grey. Few know what it consists of, but its harmfulness is widely speculated. There are those online who are suggesting a blockbuster movie about how the black slush takes over the world”

Mendeleev would raise his eyebrows if he learnt the ingredients of the snowy slush. There are many elements of his table in it. 

Dmitriy Artamonov, head of toxicology department at Greenpeace: “Heavy materials, large dose of benzaperene – it’s a cancerous substance from car fumes. Chlorides from using salt. Serum – from small bits of tires”

Serge and Felix equally dislike winter. Walks through the cold St. Petersburg result in aching feet and skin irritations for these Pomeranian Spitz dogs. The two lively pups are not keen on running around with a mixture of benzaperene and chlorides under their paws. Their owner says in winter time dogs are rushing to go back home 10 minutes after going out. 

Alina Slobodyanik, dog owner: “The dogs are whining, they’re feeling the pain, as if telling me to go somewhere else. But it’s hard to find a different place, these chemicals are everywhere”
People usually walk the streets on two feet and wear shoes, which are harmed – just as their clothes. It usually takes half a day outside in a big city for the street chemicals to reveal themselves as colored patterns on new shoes and jeans 

Arkadiy Petrov, St. Petersburg resident: “So that’s how it is. It’s the 1st winter for these shoes, but it may well be the last too. And here are my pants”.

Specialists recommend fighting this evil with the evil alike. Progress is constant. Shoe care chemicals to fight this “salt” were invented long ago. Spraying shoes with those is required 2-3 times a day – like taking a prescribed pill. And not every chemical would help.

Oleg Kondratyev, shoe designer: “Not just spraying, but use constantly – put as many as you can – so that it can penetrate the shoe well and be in active use all the time. The street chemicals are very harmful, they dissolve glue”

Back in the days, the snow and the slush was taken away to designated compounds. Nowadays, a network of snow-melting facilities operates in the city. There we can see a whole range of colored snow – from pure white to ash black. It is turned into water and we are being assured – the cleaning system is under control and doesn’t make mistakes. And the urban amenities committee claims the city’s streets are covered with a standard misture of salt and sand. And remind us that the alternative – concrete crumbs – are forbidden from use in St. Petersburg.

Vadim Mizyukin, head of complex clean-up and road maintenance department of the urban amenities committee of St. Petersburg: “We use it only at those roads with open drainage. In 1998 we used it and by spring the whole sewage system was blocked”

If the amount of used chemicals is reduced, then shoes may become cleaner, but there’s a big risk that the city’s streets will turn into one solid ice-skating rink. There were suggestions to use – experimentally – expensive Magnesium Chloride in the streets. But, according to the urban amenities committee, the city’s budget may not afford such experiments.