Rock salt is a huge help in the wintertime, but it is also a pollutant. As you know, rock salt helps keep roads and sidewalks safe for travel in the winter. Depending on the severity of the winter, Americans use between 10 and 20 million tons of rock salt per year. And unfortunately, a large percentage of this salt ends up in local waterways. Rock salts contain chlorides, which can disrupt many aquatic organisms’ biological processes and can damage local ecosystems. Rock salts have also been found to harm fish eggs and kill vegetation in streams, resulting in increased erosions. Rock salts also can harm landscaping, concrete and metal.
The next time it snows, try to limit your rock salt use by shoveling early and apply the salts sparingly- just enough to keep your sidewalks clear and safe. As the temperature rises and the salt starts to melt the ice and snow, shovel again before the melt can freeze. There are also salt-free alternatives such as urea or beet juice that can be used to melt sidewalk ice.