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1404 Goodale Boulevard, Suite 100
Columbus, OH 43212
Phone: (614) 486-9613
Fax: (614) 486-9614

Be Salt Smart for Water Quality

Did you know that many lakes and rivers across the Country are contaminated with chloride? This toxic chemical comes in large part from the salt and deicers we use to keep ice off our roads in winter. Although they make it easier to get from point A to point B, we pay a big environmental price for using these chemicals to melt the ice on our roads.

Chloride is virtually impossible to remove from a waterbody. Once it’s there, it’s there for good. Just one teaspoon of salt contains enough chloride to pollute five gallons of water forever.

In recent years, public works agencies have begun providing their snow plow crews with special training and tools to minimize this type of pollution. You can do your part at home by following these simple tips for pollution-free snow and ice removal.

A lot of the great information on this page comes from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization, Wisconsin Salt WIse, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.




  REMOVE THE SNOW



SHOVEL, SCRAPE, REPEAT
The best way to remove snow and ice is the old-fashioned way: clear the snow and scrape or chisel away the ice. Avoid ice buildup by shoveling early and often and redirecting downspouts away from hard surfaces.

DON'T LET SNOW GET COMPACTED
Don’t wait until the storm is over: Try to get out and shovel once or twice before the snow piles up and becomes compacted. Compacted snow is heavy, slippery and hard to separate from the pavement.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT TOOL
There are many kinds of snow and ice, so don’t limit yourself to just one tool for removing them. Your local hardware store likely carries a variety of push shovels, scoop shovels, ice chisels and ice scrapers.  If you need to use salt or other deicer, keep the follow tips in mind.






  SALT, DEICERS, AND SAND



THE TRUTH ABOUT SALT
There is no such thing as an environmentally friendly salt or deicer and currently, no regulations that require truth in labeling within the salt and deicing industry. All such chemicals cause damage to our waterbodies, plants, wildlife and infrastructure, and should be used as little as possible. 

WHEN TO USE SALT
If you must apply salt or deicer, do it after the storm is finished. Clear off any loose and/or compacted snow first. Apply the product on ice only; do not apply it on dry pavement.

Temperatures often drop after a snowstorm, so double-check the label on your salt or deicer product to make sure it will work before you apply it. Rock salt doesn’t work below 15°F.

And remember: If it’s a warm day and the sidewalk is wet, don’t use any deicers. The sun is already doing the job for you, and throwing salt onto the ice isn’t going to hurry the process; it’s just going to send deicer down the stormdrains.

HOW MUCH SALT TO USE?
More salt does not equal faster melting — just more pollution and wasted money.

Shoot for a 3-inch spread between salt granules. For $10–$20, a hand spreader can make the job easier and more accurate. To be more exact, try to apply no more than 1 pound per 250 square feet of pavement. (Tip: A regular-size coffee mug typically holds about 1 pound of salt.)

WHAT ABOUT SAND?
Use sand when it’s too cold for salt to work. Sprinkle just enough to provide traction on walkways. Sweep up any excess after the ice melts and dispose of in the trash or reuse so that it doesn’t get carried into stormdrains. Remember, sand pollutes too.

Don’t bother mixing sand and salt together. They serve two completely different purposes. Sand is useless in wet, melting snow and slush.


CORRECT SALT APPLICATION



SALT & DEICER COMPARISON CHART


  OTHER SOURCES



While winter maintenance activities contribute the majority of salt to our freshwater and groundwater systems, there are other sources as well.

Water Softeners
"Hard" water is full of dissolved minerals like calcium and magnesium, which can contribute to unpleasant effects such as: dingy clothes, visible deposits on glassware and cooking utensils, scale buildup in pipes and on fixtures, and more.

When these minerals are removed, the water becomes "softened" and can extend the life and improve the efficiency of water heaters, dishwashers, and other appliances, potentially saving water, energy, and detergent use.  It’s really not surprising that water softeners are a popular household item.

In order to soften the water, special resin beads are used to draw these minerals out of the water like a magnet.  Over time, these beads fill up and need to be recharged, which is commonly accomplished with salt.

A major drawback of salt-based ion-exchange water softeners is the chloride they produce and discharge into septic or sewage systems. Chloride from salt can seep into and pollute groundwater from on-site septic systems. Chloride also enters the environment via wastewater treatment facilities. Because facilities aren’t designed to remove it, chloride ends up in rivers, lakes and streams.

Learn more about water softerners.

Fertilizers and dust suppresents can also contribute salt and chlorides into the environment.