Storm water in the winter

  • Published
  • By Cody Koontz
  • 341st Civil Engineer Squadron

Winter is upon us at Malmstrom. While outdoor activities are generally reduced, there are still methods to reduce pollution from entering our storm water. One practice that contributes to storm water pollution is applying salt to sidewalks and driveways.

Using salt is an excellent way to reduce ice and increase safety on walkways. Many of the bags of salt you find in your local grocery or hardware store are composed of sodium chloride. Sodium chloride can be harmful to pets and is worse for water quality than other salts. Another downside is that sodium chloride is only effective down to 20°F. There are other salts in the market that do the same job (some even better) and are more environmentally friendly. Magnesium chloride in particular is used both on and off base to protect the roadways from ice. Magnesium chloride is effective to a lower temperature and releases less chloride ions to the environment. Other alternative salts include calcium chloride and potassium chloride.

It is also important to apply the correct amount of salt to driveways and sidewalks. Before you apply salt, shovel as much snow and ice off the surface as possible. If there is still a slip hazard, apply salt according to the recommendations on the package. Applying too much salt can stain clothes, kill grass, and contribute to corrosion on unprotected metal.

This winter be sure to check the label when stocking up on salt and apply salt only after you shovel.