"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.)
The Bay Needs You
The 2020 State of the Bay Report makes it clear that the Bay needs our support now more than ever. Your donation helps the Chesapeake Bay Foundation maintain our momentum toward a restored Bay, rivers, and streams for today and generations to come.