Pollutants Don't Melt with the Snow!

Piled snow contains pollutants such as salt, leaves, litter, oil, heavy metals, sediment and more.

Piled snow contains pollutants such as salt, leaves, litter, oil, heavy metals, sediment and more.

The warmer temperatures in southeastern Wisconsin over the last few days have caused a great deal of snow to melt. This is something we often celebrate as a potential sign that spring is coming! However, it's important to remember that snow can function as a significant source of water pollution since it accumulates a variety of contaminants from the atmosphere, motor vehicles, sidewalks and roadways. These contaminants can include salts and salt additives, heavy metals, petroleum products such as oil and grease nutrients, bacteria, organic chemicals such as pesticides and PCBs, soil materials and litter. As the snow melts, contaminants are carried directly into our rivers and Lake Michigan. Whether you like it or not, we are likely to see more snow before spring arrives. Read on to learn more about preventing snowmelt runoff pollution on your property.

The pollutant load in snow may be lessened on private properties as compared to snow removed from public roads, but there are ways you can reduce it even more. It may not seem like much if you're the only one taking action, but if many people make small changes in the way they manage their yard and snow removal, cumulatively it can have a big positive impact on water quality.

  • Look at your yard this weekend. Are there still leaves and sticks lying around? Rake or pick them up to prevent them from being carried away by snowmelt after the next storm.
  • Check your vehicles for leaking oil or other automotive fluids and repair any issues right away.
  • Clean up pet waste in your yard regularly. Many people believe that dog poop dissolves in snowmelt but it is simply not true. Bacteria from feces will make its way into our waters.
  • Do some research. If you choose to use salt in winter, read about your options and purchase an icemelt product that best suits our climatic conditions and average low temps so you’ll need to use less of it.
  • Pre-treat your walkways before the next big storm hits. You’ll need less deicer in the long run.
  • Keep walkways shoveled in the first place as snow quickly becomes ice when walked upon.
  • Mix sand with salt. You’ll use less volume of product to melt ice and gain the traction provided by sand.
  • Sweep up excess salt and sand after every storm. Not only will you keep it out of the storm sewers, you'll be able to use it again and save money in the process!

Follow these tips to help keep our water cleaner...because clean water is a matter of proper training!