Winter Environmental Tips1
With the lake frozen and the ground covered with snow, we often forget that how we treat the environment during the winter can have a significant impact on our watershed. It's important to remember that what we leave on the snow or the ice today will make its way into our lakes and streams come spring. Some ideas for a "green winter" include:
Take good care of your septic system during the winter:
- Prevent the compaction of snow on your leaching bed (eg: by snowmobiles). An undisturbed snow cover provides good insulation while compacted snow melts slowly and can saturate your bed.
- Limit the amount of water you use to avoid overloading your system. Repair leaking faucets, running toilets, etc., and use low volume plumbing fixtures.
- Use only phosphate free products.
It's great to enjoy the many outdoor activities winter offers but remember to:
- Before driving or snowmobiling over frozen lakes or streams, ensure that your vehicle is not leaking oil or other toxic fluids and that your undercarriage, wheel wells and wheels/skis are clean of salt, grit, etc...
- Take care when accessing a frozen lake for skating, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, ice-fishing, etc. Use summer access trails to the lake, rather than taking a direct route over the snow. Even though covered by ice and snow, shoreline vegetation and embankments can be damaged by winter traffic.
- Be very careful when filing snowmobiles, snowblowers, portable heaters, etc., with gas, oil, kerosene ... and ensure that you clean up any spills immediately.
- If you have a bonfire on or near the shoreline or the lake, collect any ashes and properly dispose of them in the spring.
- Don't leave any garbage on the lake or the shoreline and pickup any that has been left behind by those who are less considerate.
- When you take the dog for a walk, remember to "poop and scoop". This will help prevent harmful bacteria from polluting our stormwater and our lakes.
Icy sidewalks and driveways are often a challenge but don't forget the environment when dealing with these hazardous conditions:
- For icy surfaces, use inexpensive sand, grit, kitty litter, saw dust or cinders. It only takes a thin layer of these products, scattered down your driveway or walkway to provide traction.
- It you must use de-icer, reduce your use of salt (or chlorine-based de-icers) and instead use de-icers that contain calcium magnesium acetate or potassium acetate
If you are planning any repairs or renovations on or near the shoreline, consult your municipal inspector to ensure that your plans comply with local and regional regulations.
1 Several of the tips offered in this article originally appeared in "On the Living Edge: Your Handbook for Waterfront Living" by Sarah Kipp and Clive Calloway as part of the Living by the Water project (www.livingbywater.ca)