Water Pollution Control

Environmental Tip of the Month

Winter De-icing of Sidewalks & Driveways

Environmentally Friendly Methods

Snow and ice storms are inevitable but is there such a thing as an environmentally friendly way to de-ice sidewalks and driveways?

Rock salt (sodium Chloride) is effective but it’s also a highly corrosive toxin that ruins the surrounding soil (adversely affecting grass, shrubs and flower beds), corrodes metal, contaminates groundwater and is harmful to pets and wildlife.  It can never be removed once it is introduced into the environment and it does not break down or evaporate.  One eco-friendly method is to use fine or coarse sand, kitty litter, or ashes – which will help with traction and assist the sun in melting ice. This method is not as effective as rock salt but is much healthier for the environment.

If you choose to use a commercial deicer, look for those that state they are environmentally safe.  Products containing calcium magnesium acetate (a salt-free compound) are effective, easy to use, and biodegradable but tend to be fairly expensive.  Calcium magnesium acetate prevents ice from attaching to cement and serves to break down and melt layers of ice already on sideways and driveways.   Products with calcium chloride work well in very low temperatures and are effective using smaller amounts compared to rock salt.  The application of deicers is better preventive than curative so it is best to apply them before the ice or snow falls, or first remove as much snow and ice as possible.  There is no substitute for muscle and elbow grease so get out the snow shovel and move as much snow as you can during the storm.  Remember, deicers are most effective when applied to a thin layer of ice.

In choosing deicing substances, it is important to read the labels in order to find out the ingredients and to use the product as directed on the package.  Follow directions carefully and only apply as much as is needed to do the job.  A little goes a long way.  Make sure that you have a good supply of deicing product on hand before the ice or snow hits so you’ll be prepared.  Making good environmental choices helps the earth which in turns helps all of us.