Road and Driveway Salt: Can wehave safe roads, driveways and side-walks as well as healthy streams?
by Brian Bohl, Stream Specialist
As the leaves fall, the temperature drops, and Jack Frostarrives, we dig for our cold weather clothes and preparefor winter. Winter snowflakes can allow for fun activi-ties such as skiing, ice-skating and football. However,there are also safety concerns that must be addressed onour sidewalks, driveways and roads that often becomeslick and treacherous in winter weather. The answer tothis problem often comes in the form of road salt (NaClor sodium chloride), which is applied to hard surfaces tomelt ice and snow.Although sodium chloride melts the ice and improvestraction for walking and driving, it is not without a costto our streams and rivers, soils, and plants. Studies haveshown that prolonged exposure (>30 days) to chlorideconcentrations above 220 mg/L can be toxic to aquaticorganisms. Concentrations of chloride found in wastesnow piles are typically variable but generally in therange of 100s to 1000s of mg/L. Through melting or runoff from the spring rains, these piles often flow di-rectly into waterways by way of storm drains or overlandflow. In addition to the direct impact of the sodium chlo-ride, elevated levels in waterways can increase the avail-ability and toxicity of heavy metals already present instream, wetland or lake sediments or in urban runoff.Aside from the impacts of sodium chloride on freshwater organisms, salty soils are not conducive to healthy vege-tation growth. Repeated yearly applications and increas-ing soil concentrations can damage plant roots so theyare unable to take up water. Over time, clay soils canhave their structure changed and become unable to sup- port plant life. Other impacts of sodium chloride appli-cations include corrosion of concrete and metal and pondstratification due to formation of a dense layer over the bottom. The dense layer restricts oxygen transport fromoverlying water in contact with the air.If we do not use sodium chloride as a de-icing agent,what alternatives do we have? One alternative is cal-cium magnesium acetate (CMA), which is made fromdolomitic limestone and acetic acid (the principal com- pound of vinegar.) This compound will not impair water quality and will not damage concrete and metals. Addi-tionally, a new product called Ice Ban
is being fieldtested by some highway departments in upstate NewYork. It is a biodegradable liquid and a by-product of commercial food production. Ice Ban
is environmen-tally friendly and is non-toxic to vegetation. It is lesscorrosive on metal than other de-icing agents and iceactually inhibits corrosion caused by chloride salts. Alternativechemical compounds that are less toxic than road salt are magne-sium or calcium chloride (MgCl
.) Calcium chloride is avery effective alternative at extremely low temperatures (<15
F.)Along with the application of non-toxic or less toxic compounds asde-icing agents, it is always good to practice anti-icing. The anti-icing method takes action before a storm to prevent icy winter roadsand driveways. Application of de-icing agents before storms hasseveral advantages including quicker establishment of safe walkingand driving surfaces, cost savings due to lower application levelsand greater efficiency due to less mechanical snow removal.
Into the Streets
by Michelle Balz, Education Assistant
College students, waking up early on a Saturday morning, to
their time to charity? Believe it or not hundreds, yes hundreds,of University of Cincinnati students did just that by participating inthe annual
Into The Streets
vol-unteering event. The HamiltonCounty Soil and Water Conser-vation District, as one of manycooperating organizations, took eight of the volunteers out intothe streets, literally, attachinglabels to storm drains in the Cityof Cincinnati. By the end of theday, 154 storm drains were la- beled and over 700 door hangers distributed to homes in the Mt.Washington area.The storm drain labeling event is part of an effort by the newlyformed Hamilton County Storm Water District to address nonpointsource (NPS) pollution. This type of pollution includes fertilizersand pesticides on lawns, loose soil on construction sites, litter on theside of the road and manure from agricultural. Many residents areunaware that in most parts of the county rainwater washes these pollutants down the storm drains flowing untreated directly intostreams and rivers. Polluted storm water can lead to fish kills, de-struction of wildlife habitat, loss of aesthetic value, impaired recrea-tional areas and contaminated drinking water resources. Lasting upto thirty years, the storm drain labels read “Keep Cincinnati Clean,Drains to Waterways” and help residents better understand the rela-tionship between storm drains and rivers. The accompanying door hangers describe NPS pollution and offer simple steps residents cantake to help improve water quality.This storm drain labeling event is only one of several events thatwill take place this fall. Whether you belong to a group interested inlabeling or would just like to label your neighborhood please contactMichelle Balz to arrange a storm drain labeling event at513-772-7645 or email@example.com. The HCSWCDsincerely thanks all of the storm drain labeling volunteers for takingtime out of their schedules to help improve local water quality.