How Does Ice Removal Affect Stormwater?
Salt used to melt ice on streets, sidewalks and steps runs off into our storm sewers and eventually the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, our drinking water source.
Salt can damage and kill vegetation as well as endanger freshwater ecosystems and aquatic life.
Safe and Effective Winter Ice Removal
All de-icing materials can be harmful to the environment, so the best strategy is to use as little as necessary.
Before applying de-icers, always shovel sidewalks and pathways to keep them clear and to prevent ice from forming.
Salt and de-icers are not effective when more than 3 inches of snow have accumulated.
Calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) is the most environmentally friendly de-icer. Northern states use CMA on roads in sensitive areas (wetlands, drinking water supply, etc.). However, CMA does not work well below 25° Fahrenheit and it is the most expensive de-icer.
Corn byproducts are effective de-icers recycled from mills and breweries. However, they can have extremely high phosphorus content, a major water pollutant.
Chloride (salt-based) products such as potassium chloride, calcium chloride and magnesium chloride are less harmful to the environment than salt. Check product labels for chemical content to find them at your local hardware store.
Chloride products often perform best when used in combination with salt. They will increase efficiency by reducing the amount of salt necessary.
Sand can be used in conjunction with any of these de-icers to add traction.
Photo: CT Post
How to Apply De-Icers
Only use de-icers on clear paths that have been shoveled or plowed. They will not work in 3 inches or more of snow.
Refrain from using de-icers prior to a storm. If de-icers are applied and a storm does not occur, sweep up all unused material and store it for reuse after the next big storm.
Focus de-icers on high-use areas and slopes where traction is critical. Apply the least amount necessary to get the job done. This will save money and minimize damage to paved surfaces, vehicles and vegetation while reducing the environmental effects.
Use a variety of de-icing products (mentioned above) to improve the effectiveness of salt and reduce the amount needed.
Plant native vegetation that is salt tolerant in stormwater drainage swales and ponds that may receive salt-laden runoff. These plants will act as an effective buffer for our local waterways.
Store salt and other products in a dry, covered area on an impervious (impenetrable) surface, such as a basement floor, to prevent ground contamination.
If you observe ineffective ice management or poor application on streets and sidewalks, such as excess piles of road salt left to disperse, share your concerns with your property manager or call the City of Philadelphia Streets Department Hotline: 215-686-5560.
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