Water Quality - Chloride Reduction and Winter Deicing
During the winter, ice on roads, parking lots and walkways can become a serious safety hazard. The most common and economical deicer used to address this is sodium chloride, also known as salt. Salt lowers the freezing point of water and makes ice and snow removal easier. However, the excessive use of road salt causes environmental problems and can itself become a hazard. Salt can erode infrastructure and damage water bodies, groundwater and roadside vegetation. Excessive chloride levels can severely impair the ability of plants to absorb water and nutrients and affects natural habitats. As snow and ice melts, it runs off into storm sewer systems along with any chemical deicing agents that may have been applied. This runoff is not treated before it is discharged directly into local water bodies. Therefore, it is most effective to address the issue at the source: the application of salt. There are road salt alternatives that can be utilized, and measures taken at every level, from homeowner to municipal snow removal operator, to decrease these negative effects.
Deicing Tips and Alternatives
There are a variety of alternatives and application practices you can undertake on your own property to safely remove ice while not posing a threat the habitat and water quality of local water bodies. These include:
- Sodium chloride alternatives such as magnesium chloride, potassium acetate, calcium chloride, calcium magnesium acetate (CMA), potassium chloride, sand and beet juice derivative.
- Always use the "Just Enough" principle, putting down only the amount necessary to prevent a safety hazard.
- Shovel or snow blow before using a deicing product; never put on top of snow.
- Sweep up any unused or undissolved product after a storm for reuse.
- Talk to your neighbors about the impacts chlorides have on our local rivers and habitats.
Municipal and Private Deicing Operations
DuPage County Stormwater Management is currently working in conjunction with several DuPage County Departments, as well as the DuPage River Salt Creek Workgroup (DRSCW) and other organizations, to educate public entities and private companies about alternative deicing and pre-wetting practices to reduce pollutant loads that reach the area's waterways. The DRSCW summarizes many of these efforts on their Chloride Reduction Resources webpage. On September 24, a Public Agency Deicing Workshop, which included a regulatory overview, evolving practices of pre-wetting and new deicing products and equipment, was held. The success of this first workshop led to the hosting of a second workshop, which was held on October 1, for private entities engaged in snow removal operations. The Parking Lot and Sidewalk Deicing Workshop highlighted facility deicing program management and included deicing program certification training. Participants who successfully passed the certification training exam are recognized as having received training in best management practices to reduce pollutant loads originating from deicing operations.
Alternative Deicing Practices such as GeoMelt have been used by the County's Division of Transportation on our County roadways. GeoMelt is a renewable beet juice solution with the sugar extracted. Anti-icing practices such as geo-melt are applied prior to the snowfall to avert the bond between the snow and pavement from forming. This reduces both the use of salts and related operational costs. GeoMelt is a natural agricultural product that is non-corrosive.
Useful links and educational materials:
And now...The Adventures of Li'l Jimmy and Lulu: 'Easy on the Salt'