BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s a delicate balance of safety and environmental awareness—treating the roads with enough ice-melting salt to make sure they’re safe to drive, while minimizing the impact on our environment.

Too much salt can be detrimental to our waterways. It can damage vegetation and marine life and even contaminate drinking water. In recent years, the Maryland Department of Environment with both state and local agencies to develop ways they can reduce the amount of salt they use.

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“The more we track and hear from others, the more we realize too much salt is a bad thing,” Maryland Environmental Secretary Ben Grumbles said.

Their tactics to tackle the issue include utilizing weather forecasters and mobile infrared sensors to develop efficient treatment plans. They also encourage the use of salt brine to treat roads before snow falls, as well as more snow plowing. As they say, more plowing means less salting.

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“We’re proud and pleased that the state highway administration has over the last five years been tracking a reduction of use of road salts,” Grumbles said.

It’s all part of a statewide effort to protect drivers without inflicting damage on our natural resources.

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The Maryland Department of Environment has the following tips to reduce your use of salt at home:

  • Clear walkways and other areas before the snow turns to ice to avoid the need for chemical deicers.
  • Track the weather and only apply deicers when a storm is imminent. If a winter storm does not occur, sweep any unused material and store it for later use.
  • Only use deicers in areas where they are critically needed and apply the least amount necessary to get the job done.
  • Store de-icing materials in a dry, covered area to prevent runoff.
  • Reduce salt use by adding sand for traction, but take care to avoid clogging storm drains. Natural clay cat litter also works well.
  • If your source of drinking water is your own private well, avoid applying salt near the well head.
  • Don’t use urea-based fertilizers as melting agents. Runoff can increase nutrient pollution

Sean Streicher