During the past weeks, we have encountered several examples of salt not being used or stored properly in Oakville. We saw excessive salt being used in parking lots, driveways, sidewalks, even residues of salt inside the GO train. The impacts de-icing chemicals have in the environment are numerous, it affects the soil, surface water, groundwater, vegetation and fauna.
It is rewarding to see that new generations are aware of the impacts our actions have in the environment. Read the article written by Christine McPherson about road salt.
Let’s Help Stop the Harm Caused by Road Salt
Road salt has become the cheapest and most common way to de-ice our roads, sidewalks, and driveways. Every year, Canadians use 5 million tonnes of rock salt. This salt doesn’t just disappear when the snow melts, it dissolves and washes into groundwater, streams, and lakes. Salt can be very dangerous to ecosystems, particularly aquatic habitats, where it only takes one teaspoon of salt to pollute ten litres of water.
In recent years, Mimico Creek has been inhabited, mysteriously, by Blue Crabs. Blue Crabs usually live in the highly salty Atlantic Ocean. Mimico Creek has become so polluted by rock salt that these creatures are able to survive, and it should serve as a warning to Ontarians to monitor our road salt use.
There are many simple ways that we can do our part to decrease the use of rock salt on our driveways and sidewalks. The best way to avoid excessive salt usage is to always shovel first, as salt should only be used on icy surfaces. You may find that you don’t need as much as you thought you did. Another alternative is to use sand or kitty litter. Although these may not melt ice, they provide traction on slippery walkways. Also, the juice from sugar beets can be used, as it is known to bring the freezing temperature of water down to -25 degrees Celsius. If we all do our part to reduce the road salt usage, we can help protect our groundwater, streams, and lakes.
Thank you Christine!
We have talked about looking for alternatives. There are different types of de-icing chemicals. Here is an article from the Minnesota Stormwater Manual where they describe the environmental impacts of road salt and other de-icing chemicals.
Other useful tips:
- Pre-wet the salt before applying. This will help the salt adhere to the pavement and will improve the de-icing process. You will need less salt
- Look for alternatives with little or no chloride
- Read the instructions or the product of your choice and only use the suggested amount
Take responsibility, get informed and act!