Keep ice melt spread out
There are two types of people in this world: those who appreciate a little ice melt on their path through life and those who dont mind a sore backside. Either way, there are negative consequences that must be reconciled.No matter how thin you spread it, ice melt accumulates. It isnt a perfect system, but large quantities of snow containing ice melt are probably best handled by the storm-sewage systems installed throughout the valley. Piling snow on a hard surface that drains to the road, like a driveway, will allow it to melt and drain into the gutter. Hosing the area off after the snow has melted will help protect the pavement from the corrosive effects of the ice melt and help dilute the chlorides and sodium.Lacking a storm sewer, pile large quantities of snow where the runoff can flow into areas that are flushed by regular runoff throughout the year. This will dilute the concentrations of sodium and chlorides, spreading the dilution across a wider area in a concentration that plants and fauna can tolerate. The handling of small contaminated areas like walkways and entryways is simple but may require some effort. Spread small amounts of contaminated snow evenly across large areas of your lawn. Reducing the concentration of ice melt should prevent toxic concentrations from building up in one spot, and through natural processes, such as leaching and absorption by plants, the concentrations will be reduced to a manageable level naturally.Plants are completely ill-equipped to handle too much sodium or chlorides in their diets. Both elements compete with plant cells for water and replace nutrients, such as nitrogen, utilized by plants in the water they take up. Sodium and chloride damage to plants look almost identical. Yellow edges on older foliage and browning on the tips of leaves are the first signs of damage. In more extreme cases, plants drop their foliage in an attempt to remove the contaminants from the plant completely. If the concentration is high enough, plants will appear wilted despite being well watered and may eventually turn yellow, then brown, and then die.Sodium and chloride accumulations also harm soil structure. Soil becomes dense and doesnt drain well, and when it is dry, it becomes extremely fine and crumbly, eroding easily. Managing ice is part of living here. So is managing the damage caused by ice-melting agents. Doing everything one can to minimize damage to our fragile alpine and desert environments is part of the responsibility one assumes when living here.Tom Glass writes a weekly gardening column for the Vail Daily. Send comments about this column to email@example.com.