TEWKSBURY — As the weather gets colder, salt on our roadways, walkways and driveways help keep us safe. However, once the salt is washed off it can make its way into nearby wetlands, streams, rivers and groundwater. Impacts of salt include raising the salinity in soil and water, making it harder for plants to absorb nutrients.
The salinity also causes great stress on fresh water wildlife. Over time, the salt makes its way into our rivers and wells, and in turn, affects our drinking water supply.
According to the Tewksbury DPW’s stormwater management initiative, some salt alternatives to consider for your home or business include:
• Sand — Mixed with salt to reduce the amount of salt or used by itself for traction
• Ashes — Absorbs moisture before it freezes and increases traction
• Kitty Litter — Absorbs moisture before it freezes and increases traction
• Coffee Grounds — Natural acidity melts ice and increases traction
• Pickle Brine — Lower salt content than road salt but acidity also aids in melting ice
• Sugar Beet Juice — Lowers the melting point of ice
Additionally, Arthur Markos in the town’s Engineering Division recommends that contractors and businesses use the following guidelines with snow and ice management. Examples of best practices include calibrating equipment according to manufactures specifications, buying equipment that can deliver very low rates of granular products, outfitting trucks with ground speed controls so that the application rate changes automatically as the speed changes, and informing clients about salt alternatives or blends.
It is advised when cleaning excess salt off of roadway equipment to make sure that the wash-water is controlled and does not flow to sensitive areas such as wetlands and waterways. Covered or indoor storage of salt/sand is recommended and should be stored on an impervious (water proof) surface.
Also, floors should be sloped away from the door or entrance and loading areas should have material swept back into the pile. It is important that salt and sand is stored and away from grated catch basins, rivers, ditches, and wetlands.
Markos is working to provide outreach now that winter weather is providing enough snow and cold temperatures to achieve slippery conditions, reminding residents and businesses of the importance of proper ice removal methods. The stormwater team is also staying busy and adapting to the pandemic by presenting virtually to THMS’s environmental health classes.
“We’re educating the next generation about the importance of stormwater and good practices,” said Markos.
Markos welcomes inquiries from residents and businesses and also encourages people to visit the Town of Tewksbury’s stormwater info at www.tewksbury-ma.gov/stormwater. If you have any questions you can contact Arthur Markos at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-640-4440 ext. 237.