What To Know Before Starting A New Sand/Salt Storage Area

Before starting sand/salt storage area at your home or place of business, ask yourself this question:  Am I willing to accept responsibility for environmental contamination?

As precipitation contacts a salt or sand/salt pile it dissolves the salt. The salt then moves with the runoff to brooks, wetlands, and ground water.  Once in ground water, salt can affect drinking water and is nearly impossible to clean-up.  Your environmental goal should be to keep your salt or sand/salt mixture as dry as possible.

One option is to store the material in a building.  Most sand/salt buildings operated by private contractors are not large -- many are converted garages or warehouse space.  There are many advantages to storing salt and mixed sand/salt under cover.   Sand/salt storage buildings minimize the possibility of contaminating ground and surface water with salt runoff, eliminate the economic loss of salt that is dissolved and washed away by precipitation, and makes the mixed material easier to load and spread.   More reasons why salt should be stored under cover. (off-site)

A second option is to mix your sand/salt only as you need it.  Many small contractors with "pick-up spreaders" are able to do this quite effectively.   The salt is purchased in 50-lb. bags or in bulk and kept under cover until the sand is loaded into the spreader.  Only at loading is the sand/salt mix created.  As no mixed pile is ever maintained on site, you do not need to register the site with DEP as a sand/salt storage site. 

If you must create a sand/salt pile at your home or business, then you need to be aware of these requirements:

  • Sand/salt piles that are less than 100 cubic yards in size are exempt from registration, and siting and operational requirements described in Chapter 574, "Siting and Operation of Road Salt and Salt-Salt Storage Areas."  Please be aware, however, that any contamination of ground or surface water is still a violation under 38 M.R.S.A. Section 413 and enforcement action may be initiated by the Department should a violation occur.  We encourage operators of small sand/salt piles to voluntarily comply with the rule and take whatever steps they can to prevent ground water contamination.

  • All sand/salt piles created after October 1999 must comply with DEP rules regarding registration, siting and operation.  This rule includes siting guidelines that may make your proposed site unsuitable for sand/salt storage or require you to obtain a waste discharge license for discharges to ground water.  It also describes other operational items, such as a pad and covering, that are now required by law.  New uncovered sand/salt piles stored on bare ground are now prohibited by law.

  • If you're not sure you have a suitable location or other concerns, call the DEP and arrange a site visit.  We can help you determine if you have a suitable site and advise you on ways to limit impacts to environmentally sensitive areas.  We've also looked at hundreds of sand/salt storage areas and can share with you how other sand/salt pile owners and operators deal with similar issues.

  • Check with your local code enforcement officer or LUPC officials for other sand/salt pile requirements.  Several municipalities in Maine restrict siting of sand/salt piles or require that piles be kept in buildings.  In unorganized townships, sand/salt storage areas must be permitted by LUPC.

  • Once established, you must register your site with the DEP.  The registration form and further information about registration are available on this web site by clicking here.

The DEP understands well the important role that salt and sand/salt mixtures play in providing safe roads, parking lots and walkways during the winter.  However, as with most products, there are both risks and benefits.  We want to assure Maine citizens that the benefits of using sand/salt do not become outweighed by its environmental risks.