Ever wondered how de-icer chemicals affect the James?

Kristen Evans, Chesapeake Bay FoundationHow many of you have wondered while riding on a bridge over the James River how the chemicals and salt on the road would affect the aquatic life once it hits the water?

Not all de-icers are good for our environment. Between VDOT and individual use, de-icing products to help keep the roadways and walkways around your home safe.  Some of these products are detrimental to the health of one of Virginia’s most vital resources — the Chesapeake Bay. NBC12’s Ros Runner reported on the impact to the environment:

“Salt can be very harmful for aquatic ecosystems, particularly fresh water ecosystems, but the biggest risk with de-icers is when they contain nitrogen, nitrogen is the #1 pollution problem in the Chesapeake Bay,” said Kristen Evans with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Excess nitrogen causes a rapid increase of algae in the water which can be toxic to fish, trees, plants and other organisms vital to the health of the bay.

When nitrogen containing de-icing products are used, runoff from a moderate rainfall easily washes this material into storm drains, which ultimately carries it to the rivers, lakes and streams that feed directly into the Chesapeake Bay.

“We have learned from VDOT that they do not use de-icers with nitrogen and they in fact take steps to minimize the amount of salt that they put on the roads, which is good for all of us and it’s certainly good for them because they are saving money on road salt,” Evans said.

So what can you do to help out at home?

“Certainly the most important thing that an individual homeowner can do when they’re going to purchase de-icer at the hardware store is look on the bag and make sure it does not contain a product called urea, U-R-E-A, that’s the code word for it contains nitrogen.  If you can pick another product, that is a really important step in protecting the bay,” Evans said.

Be sure to read the labels carefully. The ingredient urea will likely be in small print and could be easy to miss. 

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