Winter weather means icy roads and slippery sidewalks. Applying salt to these surfaces can be an important safety practice. However all the salt being applied to paved surfaces during winter is impacting the environment by making water and soils unnaturally salty, changing the ecosystem. Excess salt leaches into the earth contaminating groundwater, making it too brackish for drinking. It can also damage plants and landscaping when salt washes into soil with melt-water.
- Shovel First – Manually removing the ice and snow first will means you will need to use less salt and make for a more effective application.
- Use the Right Amount – using more salt does not necessarily mean more melting. Guidelines suggest using less than four-pounds of salt per 1,000 square-feet. One pound of salt will fill a 12-ounce coffee mug. Allow time for salt to work before applying more.
- Check the Temperature – Temperatures below 15 degrees are too cold for salt to work. In this case, sand may be a better choice to provide traction in an icy environment.
- Keep Tidy - If salt or sand is visible on dry pavement, it is not melting ice and likely to wash away. Sweep up excess salt and sand and store it in a bucket for use in the next snow storm, or dispose of it in the trash.
For more information, visit the Earth Gauge Tips Archive: http://www.earthgauge.net/2013/smart-about-salt
Sources: Hunt, S. (2010, December 12). Road Salt is Polluting Ohio Drinking Water. The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved from: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2010/12/12/road-salt-is-polluting-ohio-drinking-water.html; Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Road Salt and Water Quality. Retrieved from http://www.pca.state.mn.us/index.php/water/water-types-and-programs/minnesotas-impaired-waters-and-tmdls/tmdl-projects/special-projects/metro-area-chloride-project/road-salt-and-water-quality.html; New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services. (2011). Road Salt and Water Quality. (Environmental Fact Sheet, WD-WMB-4). Retrieved from http://des.nh.gov/organization/commissioner/pip/factsheets/wmb/documents/wmb-4.pdf