by Maura Toole
Winter is coming and so are ice and snow. Our everyday winter de-icing actions can make a difference for protecting the water quality of Seneca Lake.
Sodium chloride (salt) is commonly used to keep our roads and walkways safe. Salt can also seep into the ground or runoff into streams and lakes where it impacts drinking water and the aquatic life of our lake. Here are a few chemical versions of de-icers that you may consider for your de-icing practices around your home. It is important to be sparing with salt application of any kind.
Rock salt (sodium chloride) is the most commonly used salt but it can contain cyanide, as an anti-caking agent that can be lethal to aquatic life, and is the most detrimental for plants.
Calcium chloride is considered a superior choice when compared to rock salt, because it does not contain cyanide, however, it can also damage plants.
Magnesium chloride is considered the least toxic de-icing salt because it contains less chloride than either rock salt or calcium chloride, making it safer for plants and animals.
Calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) is considered the best overall choice for safely melting ice. It is less toxic than de-icers containing chloride but can cost substantially more than rock salt.
There are also other non-chemical de-icing techniques to consider that keep walk walkways safe, while also minimizing pollution to our waterways. These products are considered better for the environment.
• Sugar Beet Juice is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to de-ice slippery surfaces. The juice from the sugar beets lowers the freezing point of ice and snow. It is safe for roads, plants, pets, concrete, and cars. The one downside is that the sugar beet juice, if it enters streams and lakes, can attract bacteria which can use up oxygen in water.
• Sand and coffee grounds, when applied on top of snow or ice, help absorb sunlight to melt snow and ice. They also provide traction. If you use sand, remember to sweep and collect it as soon as weather conditions permit as it can blow or wash into streams or lakes and cause some disturbance to aquatic habitat.
• Kitty litter is similar to coffee grounds and sand in that it will provide traction on slippery surfaces, though it will not melt the snow.
Other tips for snow and ice removal:
• Look for “pet safe” de-icing products. If a product is pet friendly, it is likely to be eco-friendly
• Apply de-icing products before a winter storm
• Disperse ice melt properly and continue to disperse during a storm.
• Clear as much snow and ice before applying de-icing products. Don’t use salt as a substitute for shoveling
• A mechanical spreader can help achieve proper coverage. The proper coverage rate is about one cup per square yard
We all can do more to protect our precious water quality. If we act together, we can collectively be the solution to winter pollution.
Visit www.senecalake.org/Lakefriendlyliving to learn more about the Pure Waters LFL program.