Prep for winter – Safe salt storage
Environmental Alert Newsletter
Winter is just around the corner, meaning slippery roads, parking lots, and sidewalks are also just around the corner. As you prepare to store your salt stash, you can also make plans to minimize losses to the environment.
Various “salts” are used to melt snow and ice, including sodium chloride, potassium chloride, calcium chloride, and magnesium chloride. Other substances that may be mixed with the salt, or used by themselves to improve traction, include abrasives such as sand and cinder.
However, scientists widely recognize that salt used on roadways and runoff from salt storage piles contributes to water quality issues in surface and groundwater. High chloride levels can affect the taste of drinking water and affect the health of people who are sensitive to salt.
That said, contaminated runoff from your salt pile could be illegal in your state without a stormwater permit. Check with your state or municipality for the specifics in your area.
Where you locate the salt pile will greatly affect how it is acted on by the elements. Factors that affect siting will include ease of accessibility and proximity to surface waters, wells, and outfalls.
Ohio’s EPA provides the following guidelines for optimal siting of a salt storage facility. Avoid placement:
Within 300 feet of a well, whether it is used for drinking water, irrigation, or industrial water supply.
Within 300 feet of dry wells (wells that drain directly to subsurface).
Within 100 feet of features that have the capability to serve as rapid pathways for saltwater to migrate. Examples include storm drains and ditches.
Within the 100-year floodplain of a stream or within 300 feet of a stream, river, lake, pond, or wetland.
Even when salt piles are placed within a structure, your operations, such as loading and unloading, may be conducted outside. It’s important to avoid impacting groundwater with these activities also.
Storage pads and covers
Store, mix, and load salt on an impervious pad to prevent infiltration into the ground. Of course, there should be no floor drains, but the pad can be sloped to meet any stormwater management practices. Curbs can prevent water from running on to the pad.
Keep salt piles covered to prevent exposure to wind, rain, and snow. Tarps should always be secured except when adding or removing salt, but structures with walls and a roof are preferred.
Your state may have additional requirements or best management practices for siting your salt storage pile. Stay warm this winter!