"The main concern is for freshwater systems—ponds, lakes, and streams," says CBF Senior Scientist Beth McGee. "There have been studies done that show that elevated chloride (salt) concentration, from applying salt to streets, can be toxic to freshwater organisms."
Salt running into the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal rivers is less of a concern because these waterways are already brackish—a mixture of salty and fresh water. But, in general, no matter where we live, we all should try to minimize our use of road salt.
Under no circumstances, should people use lawn or garden fertilizer as an ice-melting substitute for spreading salt on their sidewalks and driveways, as the nitrogen and phosphorus make their way into waterways. The same goes for products that contain nitrogen-based urea.
If you're looking for an eco-friendly alternative, avoid sodium chloride, read ingredient lists, and do your homework. This review from Grist is a good place to start. (CBF does not endorse Grist's recommendations or any products listed.)
Share Your Clean Water Story
What does the Bay, its rivers and streams mean to you? What impact have the Bay and its local waters had on your life? We'd like to know.
Do you enjoy working with others to help clean the Chesapeake Bay? Do you have a few hours to spare? Whether growing oysters, planting trees, or helping in our offices, there are plenty of ways you can contribute.