Salt & The Environment

The snow removal industry plays a very important role in keeping people safe throughout the winter season; be it on roadways, driveways, walkways or parking lots.

Unfortunately, as with many other industries, there is an environmental impact to be considered as well.

Rock salt (NaCl) is by far the most commonly used de-icing product due to its relatively inexpensive cost and ease of application. Alternative de-icers can be prohibitively expensive, thereby reducing their use in most cases.

The use of rock salt, and other chloride-based products, can have a significant impact on the environment, especially when used carelessly or over-applied.

Risks

The components of the environment that salt can potentially harm include:

  • Soils
  • Vegetation
  • Wildlife
  • Streams and aquatic life
  • Groundwater

Road / rock salt has been entering the environment in large amounts and is posing a risk.
Managing salt use through reduced application rates, lower plow-depth thresholds and the use of liquid brines and “treated salt” can reduce salt’s impact dramatically.

 

Solutions 

By preventing / reducing the amount of salt that is lost to the environment through surface run-off, its negative impact can be limited, while still providing safe surfaces for pedestrians and vehicles. Being aware of the environmental impact of chloride use is just the beginning. Actions taken to reduce the amount of salt that gets into the environment are varied, such as:

  • Calibrating spreaders to prevent over-application
  • Trained operators to prevent misuse and over-application
  • The use of liquid anti-icing to prevent hard-pack formation which can often require multiple salt applications to get rid of
  • Treating salt with liquids (organic-based chlorides) to reduce both the amount used and also improve the retention on treated areas
  • Using salt with the right amount at the right time to achieve best results with minimal run-off
  • Removing snow from walkways before applying de-icing products to reduce the amount that gets thrown onto the turf & garden areas of properties

MPS

MPS is actively engaged and using these strategies as part of our winter snow removal operational plan. Through education, best practices and technological innovation, we strive to reduce the negative impact of salt on the environment.

 

– Ken Jorgenson

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