Using salt to melt ice on sidewalks and streets is a must in Chicago, but over applying salt can damage plants, animals, insects, vehicles and infrastructure, and contaminate water supplies.
As ice and snow melt, road salt is washed into sewers and soaked into the ground. In urban areas like ours, salting roads and sidewalks is a necessity, but people care cautioned to use salt sparingly to reduce contamination.
The Salt Smart Collaborative offers four steps are residents and businesses can follow to reduce the environmental impact of road salt.
- Shovel first. Clear snow from driveways and sidewalks before it turns to ice.
- Size up. More salt does not mean more melting. A 12-ounce coffee mug of salt should be enough for 500 square feet of driveway or 10 sidewalk squares.
- Spread. Distribute salt evenly, not in clumps.
- Switch. Rock salt stops working when the temperature is below 15 degrees. When that happens, switch to a deicer formulated for colder temperatures.
For more information on salt use and protecting waterways, visit the Salt Smart Collaborative at saltsmart.org or visit the Metropolitan Water Reclamation website at mwrd.org under the education tab.