When it snows or rains ice, people purchase de-icing salt and apply it to their roads and sidewalks.
When the salt melts the snow or ice, the salt washes away into our storm drains and streams as untreated polluted runoff.
During times of concentration, such as a snow storm, the heavy influx of sodium and chloride ions—this is what you get when salt dissolves— begin to disrupt freshwater organisms.
In fact, 40% of U.S. streams have dangerously high levels of chloride due to ice removal.
This heavy influx of salt negatively affects how freshwater organisms regulate fluid passing in and out of their bodies. Changes in the salinity of a body of water (like the Harbor) can also affect the way the water mixes as the seasons change, leading to the formation of salty pockets near the bottom and biological dead zones.
Here are four rules for ice removal:
1. SHOOT FOR TRACTION, NOT MELTING
2. KNOW WHEN TO SALT
There is a best time to apply salt and that is JUST before the snow falls. The logic is to prevent the snow from sticking from the beginning. If the snow is already present, try an alternative mentioned above. Click to Tweet This
3. LOOK FOR LANGUAGE LIKE “PET-FRIENDLY”
Don’t settle for weak language such as “eco-friendly” or “safe” when buying ice melt. If a product is safe enough for pets, it is likely to be safer for plants and people and to cause less polluted runoff. Click to Tweet This
4. AVOID SODIUM CHLORIDE
Avoid the temptation to buy the cheapest and most widely used ice melt: sodium chloride. This chemical concoction disrupts the salinity of water, harming the fish and animals. Likewise, this “road salt” erodes the soil and damages trees and vegetation. Look for products containing magnesium chloride instead, which is less damaging to the environment. Click to Tweet This