Smart Salting; Modifying Our Expectations

November is a good time to write about issues related to road salt.

We gardeners, designers, landscapers, conservationists and ecologists all know the problems. How many times have you asked or searched plant lists for species that are “salt tolerant?” How many times have you trusted the list and then, the next spring, been disappointed? How many times have you explored the plant selections according to tolerance to soil salt vs. aerial foliar spray? How many evergreens have you wrapped? How many times have you walked along a sidewalk in the spring and noticed the brown dead zone about a foot wide next to the walk?

In our desire for maximum convenience, we have forgotten how to be tolerant of winter snow and ice. We don’t want to slow down on the highway. We expect sidewalks and roads to be clear and dry. Our intolerance creates numerous negative environmental impacts and costly expenses. Damaged property from shoes to plants to pavers and concrete for one. The expense of putting down too much salt using poor, out-of-date salt application strategies for another. And, perhaps most importantly, declining water quality in our local rivers and streams due to the increasing amount of chloride from road salt that is being discharged into them every year.

Learn tolerance and effective salting strategies. We can reduce the amount of salt we use without sacrificing safety. This winter follow these recommendations from the Salt Smart Collaborative, a new website supported by the Lower DuPage River Watershed Coalition, The Lower Des Plaines Watershed Group, The Northwest Water Planning Alliance and coordinated by The Conservation Foundation. For homeowners, see www.saltsmart.org/residents. For private contractors, visit www.saltsmart.org/privatecontratcors.