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Road Salt: Why our Reliance on it Needs to Change

Salt used on roads, sidewalks and driveways for winter safety washes into soil,

lakes and streams and can even contaminate our drinking water.  

Road salt consists mostly of sodium chloride, with smaller amounts of calcium chloride or magnesium chloride. Sodium ferrocyanide may also be added as an anticaking agent.

Almost all chloride from road and residential salt use eventually ends up in our waterways. With such high chloride levels, road salt use can kill and endanger wildlife and plants.

A teaspoon of salt can contaminate five gallons of water, and it doesn’t disappear. 

Removing salt is too costly and complex to be feasible, so the result is really a permanent pollutant.

Every time we use salt to make slippery surfaces safer, we are actually slowly killing our local ecosystem.

With an average of five million tons of road salt being used every year in Canada; that’s a lot of toxic chemicals going directly into our water.  

Municipalities, companies, and commercial property owners need to take action.

But there’s a lot individuals can do, too.

Winter safety is important but we need to find other ways to make slippery surfaces


  • Try using gravel or sand for improving traction to avoid the cycle of applying salt

over and over again to prevent surfaces from becoming slippery.

  • Shovel and clear your driveways and walkways often as keeping them as clear as

possible reduces the chance for ice build up. 

  • Try to address areas where water pools and freezes, to prevent ice from forming in

key areas.

  • If you really must use road salt, do so sparingly.  Less is more.  Spread it out and

ensure that you do not have too many grains concentrated in one spot. 

Ottawa Riverkeeper recently posted a blog called “5 Tips to Reduce Your Road Salt

Use” which has more great tips and information. 

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