Get the Scoop on Salt
The amount of salt in our waterways and drinking water is increasing.
The salt in our rivers comes from winter road salt and water softeners.
The salt we use to melt snow and ice in the winter gets into our local rivers and remains there year-round.
The true cost of road salt goes well beyond the price of a bag of salt.
Chlorides impact the environment, corrode infrastructure and are costly to remove from our waterways.
Protect our rivers. Be Salt Smart!
Together we can protect our local waterways by using the right amount of salt--and still keep our roads, driveways and sidewalks safe!
Chloride levels in northeastern Illinois rivers, lakes and wetlands have been on the rise for decades. This increase parallels the increase of roads and parking lots that have been built and the subsequent increase of salt applied to those surfaces. Chlorides cause damage to vehicles, infrastructure and the environment, particularly the health of our local waterways.
Where does the salt come from?
Winter Road Salt
Throughout northeastern Illinois, and much of the “snow-belt” of the country, rock salt is used to maintain safe driving conditions during and after winter storms. Salt is also applied to parking lots, sidewalks and driveways. As snow and ice are melted, the dissolved salt is carried in the melt water to local streams and lakes or is infiltrated into the groundwater. The salt can also remain on the landscape or in detention basins and storm sewers long after the winter, providing a constant source of chlorides to our local waterways every time it rains well into the summer.
Some municipalities and residents with hard water use water softeners to remove excess nutrients. Water softeners are another source of chlorides that end up in our waterways.
The True Cost of Salt
Besides the obvious cost of materials and labor required to salt streets in the winter, there are other costs to winter salt usage:
The only way to reduce the impact of salt on the environment is to reduce the amount of salt we use. Salt does not breakdown or degrade. Once it is in the water or the soil, it is very difficult and expensive to remove.
Salt harms fish, particularly in early developmental stages like eggs and juveniles. Macroinvertebrates (the bugs that live in our waterways and provide food for fish), freshwater mussels and amphibians are also adversely impacted by salts.
It is a well-known fact that cars from the “snow-belt” rust out faster than cars from further south where the winters are warm. Salt corrodes metal on vehicles and bridges, causes concrete to “pit” and damages entryways in buildings.
On the landscape, we regularly see “salt burn” on plants, shrubs and trees along roadways and sidewalks. Salt spray from passing cars can damage vegetation well past the edge of the roadway. It is difficult to grow desirable plants in soil that has a high salt content.
Salt crystals and salty slush can adhere to pet’s feet and cause irritation, soreness and burning of the pads or skin. Salt can also be ingested when pets lick their paws, or drink water outside contaminated with salt. Excessive ingestion can lead to vomiting, diarrhea or unnaturally intense thirst. In extreme cases, pets can fall into a coma or even die from salt poisoning.
How does salt melt snow & ice?
How can you help? Be Salt Smart!
Together we can protect our rivers by shoveling first and using the right amount of salt--all while maintaining safety on roads, parking lots, driveways and sidewalks!