The arrival of a new year has brought winter weather to Central Ohio.  As winter finally shows its icy face, residents are stocking up on supplies to prepare themselves for the demanding season ahead.  The initial beauty that is the first snowfall is quickly forgotten once pavements and roads become layered in salt, pollutants blacken snow along streets, and shoveling becomes an everyday, relentless chore.  The lawn that Ohioans worked so diligently to maintain throughout the year disappears beneath winter, often resurfacing in spring with various imperfections.  Sidewalks and driveways have cracked, gardens either did not make it or their plants are discolored, and the “Welcome” rug just inside your home is stained white with salt residue.  While the winter path to spring can be tumultuous, there are a few things that homeowners can do to deviate from the “winter norm,” helping the environment along the way.

  • Use an eco-friendly alternative to Sodium Chloride (Salt) ice melter.  The popular Sodium Chloride used on pavements, including sidewalks and driveways, can harm waterways, plants, pets, children, and concrete.  On concrete, Sodium Chloride will cause water to seep into its pores, not allowing the concrete to expand correctly and cause cracks on pavements.  Once Sodium Chloride breaks down, sodium molecules can dehydrate and kill plants nearby.  Sodium and Chloride molecules that reach waterways through storm drains harm aquatic life and alter the taste of drinking water.  Ice melting agents that are labeled as “pet-friendly” often have less chloride and little to no sodium, leaving plants, pavements, waterways, and family members happy and healthy.
  • Store rain barrels and other gardening containers in a safe, dry place over winter.  Cold, brisk air along with snow and ice can cause surface tension, leading to cracks in plastic.  A rain barrel is no longer able to reduce stormwater runoff if there is a crack on its surface.  Not enough storage for a rain barrel?  Although not ideal, the spigot can be opened throughout winter, allowing melted snow to empty through it.  An open spigot also lets air into the rain barrel, resulting in less surface tension in colder weather.
  • Shoveling often is the key to a safe sidewalk and driveway throughout winter.  Well-shoveled pavement allows ice melting agents to better penetrate the ice laying beneath snow and helps prevent cracked concrete.  When shoveling, snow should be placed along the sidewalk and away from gardens.  Although gardens can withstand average snowfalls, too much snow will saturate plants in the spring, leading to plant deterioration.
  • Think ahead with porous walkways and driveways next year.  Porous materials such as gravel, pervious pavers, or porous asphalt allow water (rainwater, snow, and ice) to enter the ground instead of storm drains along the street.  If less water enters the storm drains, then less pollution will be dumped directly into streams and rivers.

 

Taking care of local streams and rivers is a year-long chore.  The bleak winter can often distract residents from continuous environmental issues.  Pollutants can harm aquatic life, wildlife, and drinking water.  By preparing for the winter blues with the aforementioned tips, residents can do their part to lessen the amount of pollutants entering central Ohio’s waterways. 

References for this article include: www.smithsonianmag.com and http://www.bluewaterbaltimore.org/

Published: January 11th, 2016