Winter is a wonderful time of year to enjoy family and the warmth of home as the snow begins to fall and accumulate outside. With the accumulation of snow, outdoor activities like sledding, ice skating, and skiing can be enjoyed by all who are adventurous enough to brave the frigid weather and potentially slippery roads. The common practice of applying salt though effective comes at a price. The salt we spread doesn't just disappear once the snow melts, in fact, that's when the salt begins its journey into our waterways.
In Pennsylvania, the state roads and highways managed by PennDOT alone use over 800,000 tons of salt and 8 million gallons of salt brine.
When snow melts, the resulting water dissolves the salt into sodium and chloride which is usually carried through storm drains. The high levels of sodium and chloride can be toxic to aquatic life and can negatively impact our ecosystem.
A study out of Maryland demonstrated that no brook trout were found in waterways that exceed 280 milligrams per liter (mg/L) of chloride.
Another study found that some streams in Pennsylvania contained more than 1,000 mg/L of chloride!
The salt which does not enter storm drains still has the potential to infiltrate soils and groundwater, causing harm to our ecosystem.
Vegetation is not typically tolerant of salt, which consequently leads to the death of many native plants after winter.
How You Can Help
Use salt more sparingly
Shovel early and often
Dump shoveled snow into a vegetated area to prevent excessive runoff into the storm drain
Use salt alternatives for de-icing such as sand, ash, or beet juice
Limit home access to one entrance to reduce de-icing areas
Use commercial car washes to remove accumulated salt off your vehicle
Information provided by the Town's engineer, Gateway Engineers