For the sake of our lakes, keep your pavement on a low-salt diet

As the snow falls and temperatures drop to freeze roads, driveways, parking lots and sidewalks – most of us will rely on SALT to clear roads and sidewalks. It is estimated that we use more than 350,000 tons of salt on the metro area roads, parking lots and sidewalks annually.

Road salt, containing chloride, enters our surface waters and groundwater after the snow and ice melts. Once in the water, salt becomes a permanent pollutant and causes harms to fish, insects and plants and changing the quality of our lakes, streams, and groundwater. There are many ways to reduce salt use while maintaining safe travel-ways. One is shoveling. The more snow and ice you remove manually, the less salt you will have to use and the more effective it can be. Watch (MPCA YouTube; 3:19) how our lakes and streams are monitored for salt pollution.

(MPCA YouTube; 3:19)

TIPS to reduce salt use:

  • Shovel first.  The more snow and ice you remove, the less salt you will have to use and the more effective it can be. After the ice has been broken up, you can decide whether deicer is even necessary to maintain traction.
  • Apply salt before the storm. Salting before can prevent snow and ice from building up on roads, therefore reducing overall salt use.
  • More salt does not mean more melting. Use less than four pounds of salt per 1,000 square feet (an average parking space is about 150 square feet). One pound of salt is approximately a heaping 12-ounce coffee mug. And be patient: salt takes time to work. Applying more will lead to unnecessary contamination.
  • 15 degrees is too cold for most salt to work. Most salts stop working at this temperature. In frigid conditions, use sand for traction.
  • Sweep up extra salt. If salt or sand is visible on dry pavement, it is no longer doing any work and will be washed away.  The excess can be swept up and reused for the next snow or disposed of in the trash.
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