Use Less Salt

It impacts our rivers, lakes and streams. At home, frequent shoveling is best!

The most commonly used road salt is sodium chloride, which is cheap and effective, but not always the best choice. Chloride can be toxic to the environment.

The real concern is that anything applied to roads, parking lots, and sidewalks has a quick and easy path to our waterways when melting snow runs into the storm drains.

HRWC recommends shoveling early and often. Avoid using salt or other deicers altogether!

In the end, it is up to you to balance needs for safety, potential environmental impacts, costs and convenience when choosing the best snow removal option for your home.

If you MUST use a deicer, follow these tips:

  • Consider a more “environmentally friendly” deicer, keeping in mind that most still contain chloride.
  • Buy it early in the season for more river-friendly choices in the store.
  • Check and follow the label’s application instructions for the most effective treatment. Some work better when applied before a snowfall to prevent ice from forming.
  • Use as little as is needed to get the job done.
  • Limit your use of sand.  Instead of melting ice, sand provides traction.  But it also increases the amount of sediment in our lakes, rivers and streams when it washes into storm drains with melting snow.
  • Promptly remove slush and any residual salt, sand or deicer from concrete surfaces to minimize polluted runoff.

Additional Resources:

Homeowners: Read “Safe Sidewalks, Safe River” from our Winter 2008 Huron River Report” for more detailed information.

Or take a look at “Improved Winter Maintenance: Good Choices for Clean Water,” a 15-minute video produced by the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization in 2011. You’ll learn the best tools for keeping driveways and sidewalks safe this winter, what deicers work under different winter conditions and whether you should use them at all, and the impacts of sand and deicers to our lakes, streams and groundwater.

Interested in what road salt alternatives local governments are exploring? Read “Communities Seek a Substitute for Road Salt,” USA Today, February 23, 2013.

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