Stormwater pollution is a year-round concern. We may sand and salt to control winter’s climate, but after the ice melts the remaining materials can get into our waterways and pose a threat to the health of our stream ecosystems.
Learning about the impacts of the chemicals you are applying is important! Follow these tips to guide the amount of salt you use on your driveways and sidewalks.
Photo courtesy Cambridge MA Department of Public Works.
Use road salt appropriately or consider alternatives for melting ice and snow.
When applying road salt, follow these simple steps to minimize impacts to water quality:
Shovel early. The more snow and ice you remove, the less salt you will have to use and the more effective your salting will be.
Apply appropriately. More salt does not mean more melting; salt takes time to work. Consider purchasing a hand-held spreader to help you apply a consistent amount.
Sweep up excess. Salt on dry pavement is no longer doing any work, but is instead posing a threat to nearby ecosystems. Sweep up excess before it is washed away, and remember to apply less the next time.
For low temps, try an alternative for traction as 15°F is too cold for salt. Most salts stop working at this temperature. Use a traction agent as needed, but remember that they do not melt ice. Sand and kitty litter are effective but can clog sewers and degrade stream habitat when washed away. Cracked corn can be an alternative to try that is more environmentally friendly.
Understand what’s in deicers. All deicers will melt the ice but some have less of an impact on the environment. Instead of sodium chloride or calcium chloride use an acetate (such as Premiere Ice Melter), potassium chloride, or magnesium chloride (such as Safe Step 8300).
Types of Deicers
Deicers are designed to be used as an aid to make the removal of ice and snow easier. There are a number of chemicals used as deicers.
Often, they are blended together or combined with materials like sand to enhance their performance.
The chemical compound of the product will determine its effective temperature range and the impacts it will have.