Shoveling is the most river friendly snow removal option.

Here’s a re-post of our 2009 blog on river-safe alternatives for snow removal at home.

Every winter HRWC gets many inquiries about the impacts of road salt on our rivers, lakes and streams.  The most commonly used salt is sodium chloride, which is cheap and effective, but not always the best choice because 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.

Limit your use of salt at home with these tips:

  • Shovel early and often to avoid using salt or deicers altogether.
  • Consider a deicer such as magnesium chloride and check labels for proper application tips.
  • Buy your deicer early, before the snow falls for more river-friendly choices in the store.
  • Use as little deicer 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.

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

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

Or check our Take Action pages for more tips on how you can prevent water pollution with small actions in your own home.