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Winter Stormwater Tips for Homeowners

 

Stormwater pollution is a year-round concern. We may sand and salt to control winter’s climate but after the ice melts the remaining materials can get into our waterways and pose a threat to the health of our streams and fish. Follow these tips to guide the amount of material you use on your driveways and sidewalks:

 Chloride and Water Quality in Vermont - Chittenden County Regional Stormwater Workshop

Types of Deicers
Deicers are designed to be used as an aid to make the removal of ice and snow easier. There are a number of chemicals used as deicers. Often they are blended together or combined with materials like sand to enhance their performance. The chemical compound of the product will determine the temperature range it is effective in and the impacts it will have.

Melting Agent
Lowest pavement temperature*
Pros
Cons
Calcium chloride (CaCl2) -20°F
  • Fast acting
  • Less harmful to concrete
  • Corrosive to metal
  • Can make concrete slippery
  • Damages plant roots
Potassium Acetate (KAc) -20°F
  • Less corrosive to metal
  • Biodegradable
  • Salt free
  • Can cause slickness
  • Lowers oxygen levels in waterways
Magnesium chloride (MgCl2) -10°F
  • Fast acting
  • Corrosive to metal
  • Damages vegetation
Urea (primarily a fertilizer) Above 10°F
  • Performs best at temperatures of 25-30°F
  • Pet safe
  • Slow acting
  • Over application can harm plants, promote algae growth, and contaminate ground water
Sodium chloride (NaCl) (i.e. rock salt) 15°F
  • Less expensive
  • Efficient
  • Less harmful to concrete
  • Damages plants and soil (“sow salt”)
  • Very corrosive to metal
Potassium chloride 20°F
  • Naturally occurring material, used as fertilizer
  • Safer for vegetation than other chlorides
  • Not as widely available
  • High salt index injures plant above (foliage) and below (inhibit rooting) ground.
Calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) 20°F
  • Least toxic for plants
  • Biodegradable
  • Salt free
  • Subject to refreezing
  • Can cause slickness

Non-toxic and environmentally friendly alternatives may soon be available, carbohydrate-based solutions derived from corn or beets are being developed but not widely available.

Sources:
University of New Hampshire Extension -
http://extension.unh.edu/articles/What-best-deicer-use-near-my-plants
University of Maryland Cooperative Extension -
https://extension.umd.edu/sites/default/files/_docs/programs/bay-wise/FS707-MeltingIceSafely.pdf

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