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Winter Salt Leads to a 'Fresh' Water Problem Come Spring

December 12, 2007

Des Moines, IA - Think twice about how you clear that sidewalk outside your home this winter. Already this year, tons of salt have been applied to roads, sidewalks, and driveways to clear them of ice.

By spring, all of that salt eventually is washed away, and much of it ends up in the state's rivers and streams. Kevin Baskins, with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says the salt and de-icing chemicals can affect the freshwater fish in those waterways.

"While it's usually not toxic enough to kill the aquatic life, it can be damaging to some of the plant life in the water, which ultimately reduces the habitat available to those fish."

Baskins says homeowners should use de-icers carefully, and instead try to remove as much ice as possible with "elbow grease."

"Chip as much of it away as you can and then use the de-icers, such as salt, as sparingly as you can."

Baskins says the underwater vegetation in lakes and streams is an important part of maintaining a healthy aquatic system.

Dick Layman/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - IA