The Forest Preserve District and other Lower DuPage River Watershed Coalition Board members are banding together to publicize the impact of road salt on the environment.
The group has launched a “Salt Smart!” education campaign to reduce the amount of chloride that is reaching area streams, and ultimately the DuPage River, where it can be toxic to fish and harmful to local water quality. It takes only one teaspoon of salt to contaminate 5 gallons of water.
Consumers and governmental entities can all work together to keep salt out of the environment. For instance, the Forest Preserve District uses an organic anti-icing agent derived from fermented and distilled corn. And the District uses rock salt on a very limited basis for roadways and parking lots when ice buildup presents safety concerns.
"We primarily use sand on our roadways and parking lots to keep salt from rivers and their tributaries," said John Fay, the District's director of maintenance and operations. "The product we use on sidewalks is less toxic, ounce for ounce, than baking soda and other common ice melters, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And it is safe to use around people and animals."
Here are some "Salt Smart!" tips from the coalition that can help consumers reduce the amount of salt they release into the environment:
- Shovel first. Clear all snow from driveways and sidewalks before it turns to ice. Salt should only be used after the snow is removed and only in areas needed for safety.
- More salt does not necessarily mean more melting. A 12-ounce coffee mug of salt should be enough to cover a 20-foot driveway or 10 large sidewalk squares.
- Distribute salt evenly, not in clumps. Clumped salt is wasted salt.
- If you see salt left over on the ground after the ice melts, then you’ve used too much. Sweep up leftover salt to keep it out of our rivers and streams.
- Untreated salt stops working if the temperature is below 15 degrees. When temperatures drop that low, switch to sand for traction or choose a different deicer formulated for colder temperatures.
The coalition stresses that the DuPage River and its tributaries are important to the community.
"Taking care of the river is everyone’s responsibility and everything we do on the land impacts the river, good and bad. Using the right amount of salt only where necessary will make a big difference for our local waterways – and our pocketbooks. Using the right amount of salt keeps you safe, saves money and protects our river."
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