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Road salt plays a key role in keeping Northern Virginia residents safe in the wintertime by melting snow and ice off of roads, sidewalks, and other surfaces that they walk and drive on. However, only one tablespoon of salt can permanently pollute 5 gallons of water. When salty runoff enters local creeks and streams, increased levels of chloride can impact the taste of drinking water, harm plants and aquatic life, and even corrode pipes, vehicles, and other infrastructure.
Removing salt from local waterways requires costly technology and doesn’t address the root issue of runoff from road salts and other deicers. To address this issue, residents can do their part to be #wintersaltsmart by following several tips for snow and ice maintenance around their property.
1. When it starts to snow, shovel early and often.
Shovels may be all that you need for winter weather in Northern Virginia. As it snows, making frequent trips to shovel your driveway or sidewalk will reduce the buildup of snow and make it easier to remove. Remember to take breaks and avoid overloading your shovel with wet snow.
2. If the sun comes out and you can wait, allow time for sunlight to melt some of the snow and ice before you apply salt.
3. Make sure to clear snow and apply salt only where needed.
There are several different types of deicers, but sodium chloride (or rock salt) is most commonly used for residential properties. One 12-oz coffee mug of rock salt is enough to treat a 20-foot driveway or ten sidewalk squares with the goal to aim for about 3 inches between pieces of salt.
After you spread salt around your property, be patient and give the salt time to work! The colder it is, the longer it will take for the salt to melt what snow or ice remains after shoveling.
4. After the storm, sweep up extra salt to use again next time winter weather hits.
To prevent runoff of excess salt into nearby storm drains, make sure to collect any excess salt on your property to reuse after the next winter storm.
Want to learn more?
Visit www.wintersaltsmart.org for additional information and resources on ways to be salt smart this winter.