Every winter, we rely on municipal, state and county personnel and private snow removal contractors to keep our highways, streets, parking lots and walkways safe and clear of snow and ice. Driving on bare pavement during or after a snowstorm is a luxury that comes with a high environmental price tag. Rock salt, the most commonly used product for snow-fighting operations, contains primarily sodium chloride. Chloride negatively impacts aquatic communities, kills plants, fouls drinking water, and persists: once chlorides dissolve in water, chlorides stay in the water. Traditional methods to filter other pollutants out of water just don’t work on chlorides. It makes sense to use rock salt as sparingly as possible.
Surveys conducted with municipalities in DuPage County show that hundreds of thousands of tons of salt per town are used each winter! The amount of salt used in snow-fighting operations gets even bigger when we think about all the private operators who clear parking lots at shopping centers, schools, libraries, and homeowners associations. Think about how much salt gets dissolved on these roads and parking lots and runs off causing damage to nearby rivers and streams. A number of educational efforts are being implemented throughout Northeastern Illinois to help these operators make better use of their resources and reduce environmental impacts from snow-fighting activities. An example of some of these presentations and technical resources can be viewed at http://www.drscw.org/winter.html.
Many local snow and ice management programs have become fairly complex. Programs include best management practices for salt storage and handling, calibrating equipment, weather forecasting, pavement temperature readings, selecting appropriate products and application rates for storm conditions and record keeping. Many snow-fighting programs now incorporate alternative products, pre-wetting, pre-treating and anti-icing techniques. To learn more about the science of how salt works, watch the video below.
- Shovel (or use a snow blower) before you use any product; never put a deicing product on top of snow.
- Sweep up un-dissolved product after a storm is over for reuse.
- Consider switching to a non-chloride deicer.
- Support changes in chloride application in your municipality.
- Inform a neighbor about the impacts chlorides have in our rivers and streams
Winter Deicing Practices for Homeowners
Winter Deicing Practices for Private Contractors
Winter Deicing Practices for Elected Officials
Winter Deicing Practices for Public Works Directors