February 12, 2010
Lawn Fertilizer as Deicer Will Pollute Local Water
CBF discourages use of nitrogen-based fertilizer to melt sidewalk ice
(ANNAPOLIS, MD) – The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) strongly discourages residents from using lawn fertilizer or deicers containing urea to melt ice, as such products contribute to the Bay's pollution, especially when applied near or on hard surfaces. Some recent media reports have suggested fertilizer as a substitute for rock salt.
Fertilizer and urea contain nitrogen and most fertilizers also contain phosphorus. Both are chief pollutants of the Chesapeake and the local creeks and rivers that feed the Bay. Nitrogen and phosphorous from various sources—lawn fertilizer, sewage, agriculture waste, coal power plants and automobile exhaust—stimulate large algae blooms which ultimate result in dramatically reduced oxygen levels. If applied to hard surfaces, fertilizer ultimately washes off into nearby creeks and rivers, and increases pollution.
To melt thin layers of ice on steps, sidewalk or other areas, residents who prefer not to use rock salt might try warm water mixed with table salt, or water conditioner salt.
The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) also publicly today called on residents to avoid fertilizer for de-icing. The agency suggested residents looking for rock salt alternatives consult The University of Maryland's fact sheet, Melting Ice Safely.
For more about the environmental challenges of snow removal, read our Bay Daily blog.