The majority of Hamilton County Storm drains flow directly into our local waterways. Many of the storm drains currently flowing to a waste water treatment plant are in the process of being or are projected to be separated. Melting snow picks up whatever is in its path and washes it into our storm drains. This includes salt or any other product used to treat roadways in winter weather.
Salt (sodium chloride), as harmless as it sounds is a chemical that does impact the waterways. Brain Bohl, Stream Specialist at Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District says, “Conductivity levels found in waterways associated with snow melt runoff can be 3-4 times or more the concentration recommended for aquatic life and therefore, a threat to maintaining aquatic diversity.”
The City of Cincinnati uses beet juice as an alternate to salt. In cold temperatures the impact on waterways can be reduced by using pretreatment liquid de-icers like brine. Treatment alternatives that employ a mixing of smaller amounts of sodium chloride, beet juice and/or calcium magnesium acetate can also help to reduce the toxicity of road salt runoff. Treating roadways is a safety necessity but has to be done responsibly. The good house keeping measures adopted by Hamilton County Storm Water District communities help them manage storage and dispersal of salt in a responsible manner.
While Hamilton County communities are looking for ways to reduce salt usage, individuals can show environmental responsibility by reducing salt usage on their properties or by using alternatives.