Salt Pollution

“Salt is of concern as an emerging fresh water contaminant.” according to John Jackson, PhD, Senior Research Scientist, at the Stroud Water Research Center.

In other words, salt is polluting our fresh water.  In some watersheds like Chester County’s Valley Creek that runs through Valley Forge National Historical Park it is past emerging – it is polluting the stream.  Background levels of salinity are in some places already exceeding thresholds for a healthy stream.

Valley Forge Trout Unlimited with science and data support from Stroud have produced a fact sheet headed “Salt Is Killing Valley Creek”.  The key takeaway from this brochure is how quickly and drastically salinity in Valley Creek has increased to dangerous levels.  Please note the illustrative chart.

Why has this happened?  Research ties it to greatly increased use of de-icing salts.

Why should I care?  Once the salt gets into solution it become nearly impossible to remove from ground water that supplies drinking water.  As salinity increases so will the costs for drinking water and infrastructure replacement due to salt enhanced corrosion.  Salt also aids in releasing other dangerous toxins as corrosion occur such as lead and other heavy metals.

What are our options?  There are no good options once the salt has made its way into the aquifer.  It is nearly impossible to remove.  The best option and only currently reasonable one is to reduce our de-icing salt use.  There is a lot of science out there regarding the problem of salt pollution.  For more information, please review our spreadsheet that details the articles and documents that we have used to develop the fact sheet.  It can be found here.

What can we do?  First and foremost, we need to use less salt.  In the case of de-icing salt, more is not better.  The appropriate amount is best.  A 12-ounce cup of salt is appropriate for 20 feet of driveway or 10 sidewalk squares.

How do we all use less salt?  Use best practices such as the following:

  • Storage: Store all de-icing products in a dry solid floored location. Keep it out of the weather.
  • Snow Removal: Remove snow early and often. This goes for plowing and shoveling.
  • Use De-icing Products Sparingly: More is not better. An appropriate application is a 12-ounce cup of salt for 20 feet of driveway or 10 sidewalk squares.
  • Use Traction Aids in Lieu of Salt: Sand, crushed limestone, sawdust and birdseed are good traction aids. Don’t use products containing urea, kitty litter or ashes.
  • Clean Up: Sweep up excess salt a reuse.
  • Report any unprotected salt piles, excess salt mounds along roadways and excess salt use to your township.

Lastly, be patient and careful.  In our area icy conditions usually don’t last longer than a day or two.  Allow time for the salt that you do apply to work.  It is not an instantaneous process.

Our expectations should not be that once the snow stops falling that we should be able to travel though there never was any frozen weather.  Be careful of you and especially be careful of others.  Our winter weather can be tricky.

Click Here for our Fact Sheet

Click Here for a printable version of our Fact Sheet

Click Here for the Excel File List of References

Click Here for a PowerPoint Slide Presentation

Click Here for a Township Salt Use Report Excel File

Click Here for the Going Green SnowPro in New Hampshire presentation