How to Safely Apply Salt in the Winter

February 10, 2021
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We are all familiar with the crunch of salt underfoot after a snowstorm in Montgomery County. But where does this salt go after the snow and ice has melted? What are the environmental, health, and economic consequences of excessive salt usage in the Winter?

What is the problem?

Salt left sitting on roads and sidewalks will eventually runoff into nearby streams, changing the salinity of the water and soils and, therefore, creating a potentially toxic environment for local fish, birds, animals, and plants. Pets also suffer from exposure to road salt as it can cause irritation or injury to their paws, toes, and skin. If pets lick their paws after a walk, they may ingest a toxic amount of sodium. Additionally, excessive road salt corrodes concrete, masonry, aluminum, and steel, and causes scaling in pipes. This drives up maintenance and repair costs for damaged roads, bridges, buildings, pipes, and vehicles.




What can we do at home? 

So how do we minimize the negative environmental and economic effects of road salt usage? The first step for county residents is to shovel early, before ice forms on pavement, and often. If a de-icer is still necessary, read the directions on products carefully and evenly spread a small amount to loosen up the ice. Twelve ounces of road salt melts about ten sidewalk squares. It is highly recommended, however, to use organic, salt-free, and pet-safe alternatives for defrosting surfaces. Calcium magnesium acetate (CMA), for example, is more eco-friendly and about as corrosive as tap water. Sand can also be used to add traction to slippery surfaces. After the ice has melted, make sure to sweep up any remaining salt or product and store it to reuse at a later date. This saves residents money and reduces the amount of harmful substances that runoff into local streams and rivers.

We must all do our part in Montgomery County to keep our watershed, wildlife, friends, family, and pets healthy. So next time it snows, remember: Shovel, Sprinkle, and Sweep because using road salt wisely benefits everyone! Stay safe and enjoy the snow!

Learn more at MontgomeryCountyMD.Gov/salt

Guest blog by: Emma Frank, Summer 2020 DEP Watershed Restoration Intern.

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