De-icing Tips for a Safe Winter and a Healthy Watershed

De-Icing Fact SheetIt’s that time of year again, when we must watch out for slippery and icy conditions on our sidewalks, driveways, and roads. As much as we need to manage the ice for our own safety, we should also consider the impact of deicing treatments on our watershed. Scientists have determined that runoff from salted/treated areas is not healthy for aquatic animals and vegetation, or for our drinking water supplies. Fortunately, many municipalities are now stepping in to provide public guidance regarding tips and tricks for de-icing while reducing the negative effects on local waters.

The Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District has summarized best practices in an easy to remember acronym; S.A.L.T (Factsheet Here). See below for more information, and please put these practices to use this winter to help decrease negative environmental impacts associated with road and sidewalk de-icing (additional information and tips here; Penn State and MN PCA).

Stuff: Road salt (sodium chloride) only works above 15°F. For colder temperatures, use a small amount of sand for added traction, or switch to melting product designed to work at colder temperatures.

Amount: Spreading more salt does not improve deicing. One 12-ounce coffee cup full of salt is enough to cover about 10 standard sidewalk squares. There should be about 3 inches between salt granules; make sure to sweep up/remove excess salt.

Location: Salt only belongs on your sidewalk and driveway, and never on your lawn, flower beds, or base of a tree, and definitely not in a stream. One teaspoon of salt permanently pollutes 5 gallons of water.

Timing: Salt works best when applied before the snow falls or right after snow is removed from your sidewalk or driveway. Never apply salt when rain is in the forecast, as it will wash away into the storm drain and out into our waterways.