Science

A Little Salt Goes a Long Way

Small woodland pond, Angela Shambaugh

Small woodland pond
(photo credit: Angela Shambaugh)

Most of us know that too much salt is bad for the human body, but did you know that too much salt is bad for water bodies as well? While salt comes from many different sources, one of the biggest in Vermont is the application of de-icing salts during the winter months. Each winter, thousands of pounds of de-icing salts are applied to our roadways, parking lots, and sidewalks to make them safer.

We can reduce the amount of de-icing salts used and still be safe in winter. The Vermont Agency of Transportation and some Vermont municipalities are now using brine solutions that stick better to road surfaces and greatly reduce the amount of salt used each winter without compromising safety. You can read about the VTrans winter maintenance program in their Safe Winter Driving brochure.

Keep your favorite water body healthy by following these tips for use of de-icing salts during the winter:

  • Prevent snow from sticking to pavement by frequent removal. 
  • Apply salts sparingly.  One teaspoon of salt in 5 gallons of water results in a solution that can harm some aquatic organisms.  Sweep up excess salt and re-use it.
  • Sodium chloride isn’t effective below 15° F, so have another de-icer such as calcium chloride on hand.  Remember to use these sparingly as well.
  • Be patient – it takes time for de-icing salts for work.

Check out this video for more ideas: