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Winter 2010

Urban Jungle

The changing natural world at our doorsteps | Illustration and text by Patterson Clark      

February 23, 2010

De-icers: Salting the Earth

Melting snow and ice dissolves de-icers, carrying them into the soil adjacent to sidewalks and streets, or washing them directly into lakes, streams and rivers. People wishing to minimize the environmental impact of de-icing may want to consider alternatives to common rock salt.

Salts are the most common and least expensive de-icers, but they can cause the most damage to soil structures and plants. Concentrated salt runoff in freshwater ecosystems can kill aquatic organisms.

The atoms of salt compounds are charged ions held together by electrostatic forces (opposites attract).

SOURCES: Roads and Bridges, Environmental Protection Agency, Center for Watershed Protection, Maryland Department of the Environment