Winter's Impact on Polluting Our Lakes, Rivers & Streams December 10 2013, 3 Comments

Winter Water PollutionDid you know that cold, wintry weather has a significant impact on pollution of our lakes, rivers and streams?

Normally the ground acts as a natural filter but, as it freezes it becomes a very hard surface like pavement or concrete.

Have you ever noticed how snow along roadways and slush in parking lots become black, dirty and disgusting?  All of these gross, gritty and grimy pollutants accumulate in snow and ice throughout the winter.  Each time snow and ice melt, these pollutants become "runoff" and pollute our waterways.  That's a lot of gunk being dumped into our lakes, rivers and streams - and this happens all winter long.

Here are some tips on how you can help reduce winter's impact on our waterways:

  1. Shovel & Scrape!  Shovel first, and show often.  Use your shovel or a garden to scrape layers of ice.  This will reduce the amount of salt used for de-icing.
  2. Use less salt for de-icing or consider alternative methods.  Road salt consists of phosphorus, nitrogen, copper and even cyanide and is harmful to plants, aquatic life and our waterways. Potassium acetate, calcium magnesium acetate can be used de-icing a sidewalk or driveway.  Shovel first, then apply salt, but use as little as possible.  If you mix salt with beet juice it can increase the salt's effectiveness when temperatures are below freezing -- this will reduce the amount of salt used.

  3. Don't use sand!  Sand can only be used for traction, not for de-icing. Sand increases the amount of sediment that is in our lakes, streams and rivers degrading or eliminating important habitat for aquatic organisms. There is evidence that some sand products can contain significant levels of phosphorus which can cause excessive algae growth.
  4. Don't rinse the gross frozen slush and salt residue from your car at home.  When your vehicle accumulates those polluted, big, black, gross chunks of frozen slush and snow;  please, don't rinse your car off at home.  Take your vehicle to a car wash where their drains take waste water to a water treatment facility.
  5. Pick up your pet waste.  Animal waste can be riddled with harmful bacteria and disease.  Cold weather and frozen ground delay the decaying process.  When the snow finally does melt, not only will your yard will look like a mine field, but that's a lot of contamination that could be washed into our lakes, rivers and streams.

  6. Animal Waste Management - Livestock Farmers.  Many states now have laws forbidding the spread of manure during the winter months. Livestock farmers are required to "stack" the manure until late Spring.  Depending upon the amount, they may need to build a structure to contain it. During freezing winter weather, manure can't break down in the soil.  The manure accumulates on the frozen ground and when ice and snow melt it can flow directly into our lakes, rivers and streams carrying bacteria and excessive nutrients.