Winter Ice, Secure Safety and Health: Stem the Wave of Salt Entering Our Waterways

Posted on February 1, 2024


When the temperature dips and snow is falling, that may have you reaching for the rock salt.

Rock salt is a coarser form of table salt, used to melt ice on our roads and sidewalks.

But what impact does Rock salt have on our environment?

Rock salt is sodium chloride, which is a pollutant! According to the US Geological Survey, the use of salt has more than doubled in the last four decades, which led to the discovery of troublesome impacts.[1]

  • More salt on land and surface water means higher levels of salt in groundwater and drinking water, which can elevate blood pressure. Salt is not removed during the traditional water treatment process! Stormwater is rain or snow melt that travels across the land into sewers or streams that lead to the Ohio River!
  • Salty water also affects infrastructure. Metal pipes and pumps corrode more quickly. Our vehicles and other property also corrode faster.
  • Rock Salt is not safe for pets to eat! Also, salt attracts deer and other animals to the roads to lick the salt and increases ‘road kill’ and accidents with animals.
  • Soil and plants can be damaged or killed. Salt reduces the permeability of soil. This causes nutrients to leach out of the soil into the environment. Plants will struggle to grow in salty soil and may not survive

And what can we do to reduce the quantity of salt from entering our waterways?

  • Shovel Straightaway: Do not wait until the snow melts and turns to ice!

Watch the Weather: Normal rock salt only works in temperatures above 15º F.

  • If ice forms, do not apply if the temperature is 15º F or less.
  • Reduce quantity of salt: “A 12-once mug is enough to treat ten sidewalk squares or a 20–foot driveway”.[2] Salt is very effective when spread evenly! A fertilizer spreader is an efficient way to distribute the salt evenly and reduce clumps.
  • Reuse excess salt: Once the ice melts, sweep driveways and sidewalks to collect the “undissolved salt” and properly store it in a bucket for reuse.
  • Use non-sodium, non-chloride alternatives.
    • Coffee Grounds: Sprinkle the “grounds” from your morning coffee onto the ice!
    • Bird seed or sand: Create Traction by spreading birdseed or sand over the ice. Note: Sand can create other water issues and should be swept up after use.

Submitted by Alice Aguilar, Environmental Advisory Commission Member

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