The most common material used to melt snow and ice is unrefined rock salt, which is about 98.5 per cent sodium chloride (NaCl) - the same chemical compound used as table salt, rock salt and an ingredient in water softeners.
Salt can have a significant impact on our groundwater. Salt has been used for years to melt ice and snow and make conditions safe for motorists and pedestrians. Much of this salt - or sodium chloride - becomes run-off and enters our sewers, streams, rivers and lakes. Salt can also seep into the ground and accumulate in the aquifers that provide most of our drinking water. Over time, too much salt in our groundwater can lead to bad tasting water. Removing salt from groundwater is a complex and costly process.
Salt has a negative effect on the environment and is toxic to vegetation and damaging to the soil. Salt has no nutrimental value. The general impact of salt on crops or vegetation is to reduce growth by promoting high pH values that cause micronutrient deficiencies. When ice melts, the salts leach into the root zones of adjacent shrubs, perennials and lawn grasses burning their roots.
To protect plants and lawn during winter, use kitty litter, sand or other alternatives to salt to de-ice walkways instead of salt.