Put Your Driveway on a Low Salt Diet

Posted by – Shawn Keenan, Water Resources Coordinator

Keeping ice and snow off your driveway and sidewalks is important for safety.  It’s a good thing to do, so that folks don’t get hurt.  However, few know that when salt washes into our storm drains it poses a risk to aquatic life (i.e., fish, frogs, and insects); as these contaminated waters ultimately discharge into our rivers, lakes, streams, and wetlands.  In short, salt can increase the metal toxicity of our waters and decrease the amount of dissolved oxygen available to our aquatic friends.  It kind of slowly messes up the Circle of Life, which is not good.

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So, to help you choose the best deicing product for your home and the environment here are a couple of tips:

  1. Check the Label.  Look closely to see what you’re buying. Experts recommend using calcium chloride over sodium chloride (rock salt).
  2. Avoid Kitty Litter and Ash.  Although these products are environmentally friendly, they aren’t very effective and they do not melt snow and ice.
  3. Shovel Early and Often.  When it comes to snow removal, there is no substitute for muscle.  Deicers work best when there is only a thin layer of snow or ice.  Shovel snow often during the storm.
  4. Apply Salt Early, but Sparingly.  Remember what your Mom may have told you at the dinner table … “A little salt goes a long way.”  The recommended application rate for rock salt is about a handful per square yard treated (after you have scraped as much ice and snow as possible). Using more salt than this won’t speed up the melting process. Even less salt is needed if you are using calcium chloride (about a handful for every three square yards treated).  If you have a choice, pick calcium chloride over rock salt. Calcium chloride works at much lower temperatures and is applied at a much lower rate.

No doubt, this has been a crazy winter and we’re probably going to get even more snow this month.  So, follow these simple steps as you deal with your icy driveway to help keep our local rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands clean.  A small step like this can make a huge difference.