With this week’s winter storm, icy roads and walkways can become a hazard. Salt is often used, and often overused, as a safety measure. One study suggests that 70 percent of salt applied to roads stays with the region’s watershed and can take decades to flush out.
Amid growing concerns about heavy use of road salt, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) says it is working to reduce the salt that goes into rivers, streams, and groundwater. It “can threaten public health and the environment – including the water that we drink,” (See https://chesapeakebaymagazine.com/md-reduces-road-salt-use-to-protect-the-bay-human-health/ )
MDE says the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration has reduced the amount of salt it uses by half in just the last five years. Some municipal stormwater permits now also require jurisdictions to reduce their use of salt.
Individuals can help ensure that salt and deicers are not overused.
MDE released this list of tips on how to make sure you aren’t too heavy-handed with the deicer this winter:
- Clear walkways and other areas before the snow turns to ice to avoid the need for chemical deicers.
- Track the weather and only apply deicers when a storm is imminent. If a winter storm does not occur, sweep any unused material and store it for later use.
- Only use de-icers in areas where they are critically needed and apply the least amount necessary to get the job done.
- Store de-icing materials in a dry, covered area to prevent runoff.
- Reduce salt use by adding sand for traction, but take care to avoid clogging storm drains. Natural clay cat litter also works well.
- If your source of drinking water is your own private well, avoid applying salt near the well head.
- Don’t use urea-based fertilizers as melting agents. Runoff can increase nutrient pollution.
An added benefit? These tips can also save you money.