De-icing salts applied to roads or sidewalks lower the freezing point of water on the pavement, which melts or prevents the formation of ice. De-icing salts can improve safety, but they also contain chemicals like chloride that can damage nearby plants, soils, and infrastructure. When these chemicals are carried away by melting ice or snow to our rivers and streams, they can harm the water quality and wildlife. Just one teaspoon of salt can pollute five gallons of water!
Follow these tips when de-icing to help reduce pollution:
- Before salting, clear away as much snow and ice as possible with a shovel or broom.
- Apply salt sparingly on icy patches, leaving about three inches between salt grains. Focus on areas with high foot traffic.
- If there is salt left on the pavement after thaws, sweep it up and apply less next time.
- Minimize use of sodium chloride (also known as rock salt), calcium chloride, and potassium chloride because they release high amounts of chloride when dissolved in water. Instead, consider using magnesium chloride products, which release less chloride.
- To help reduce salt use, consider mixing in additives like beet juice or pickle juice.
- To increase traction, sprinkle sand with or without salt. Sweep up the sand later so that it does not clog storm drains or pollute rivers and streams.
Learn more at Pgh2o.com/reducing-stormwater-pollution.