Throughout the winter months our sidewalks tend to accumulate a white blanket, but not like the ones you used to know. These days we get more salt than snow, and it's become a significant problem. Road salt is toxic to wildlife, damaging to shoes, clothing, and infrastructure, and harmful to our pets' paws. When the snow and ice goes away, the salt does not; it seeps into garden beds, lawns, and our creeks and rivers. In fact, even in the summer after it rains, accumulated salt can wash out of soil into creeks and rivers and cause problems in the ecosystem.
While some salt is necessary to keep our roads and sidewalks safe for use, we all need to do our part to reduce the impact this salt has on our environment. The City of Toronto's Salt Management Plan provides guidance to staff on the correct amount to apply to our roads, but sidewalks, parking lots, and driveways are the responsibility of residents, property- and business- owners to maintain.
Here are some simple steps that you can take to ensure that your property is safe, while reducing the amount of salt you use:
- Don’t salt where you don’t walk: clear a path, not the whole property.
- Shovel first. Road salt is meant to break the bond sticking snow or ice to the ground. If you put it on top of a pile of snow it can't do its job.
- Apply salt, only if needed, to areas where the snow or ice is stuck to the ground.
- Use the correct amount. Think about road salt the same way you would about medicine. If you had a headache and were going to take aspirin, you would read the bottle to see how much to take. Do the same with road salt. Follow the directions on the package.
- Check the temperature. Salt loses effectiveness at -10C and is useless below -20C. If it's too cold, apply sand for traction instead.
If you employ a contractor to make your property safe for winter, please consider hiring a contractor that has taken Smart About Salt training.
For more info on road salt and the environment, visit out our website.
Did you know:
- Blue Crabs (a saltwater species) were found thriving in Mimico Creek in 2017 - their ability to survive in what should be a freshwater environment is because of road salt run-off.
- Nearly all de-icing products are a form of salt. Products that claim to be more effective than others are likely using a salt with higher amounts of the active ingredient (chloride ions). Less salt isn't less harmful if it's depositing more chloride ions in our waterways so always follow the instructions carefully.
- Due to salt water run-off, some Toronto-area creeks and rivers have shown salt levels comparable to the ocean.
Concerned about over-application of salt at your home or work place? Direct your property manager to the Smart About Salt website.