Tips to reduce salt pollution of streams, lakes and groundwater

How can we maintain water quality of our local lakes, streams, groundwater and drinking water but keep driving conditions safe in the winter? There are no practical alternatives to applying salt to remove ice from roadways, driveway, sidewalks and parking lots. BUT, we can apply less salt through efficient smart salting (S2) strategies. Anoka County and community public works are adopting S2 methods that save money as well as reduce the damage to infrastructure, vehicles, grass/plants, and water supplies.

Residents, businesses and organizations can do their part to prevent salt/chloride pollution by following some simple tips:

  • Shovel (or snow-blow) first. The more snow and ice you remove manually, the less salt you will have to use and the more effective it will be.
  • Work together with neighbors, businesses, schools, churches and non-profits to find ways to reduce salt use in your community. Speaking up starts the process of working together.
  • Know the right temperature. 15 degrees F is too cold for (sodium-chloride) salt. Most salts stop working at this temperature. Use sand instead for traction, but remember that sand does not melt ice.
  • Slow down. Drive for the conditions and make sure to give plow drivers plenty of space to do their work. Consider purchasing winter (snow) tires.
  • Be patient. Salt doesn’t work instantly. Just because you don’t see whitish salt on the road doesn’t mean it hasn’t been applied. These products take time to work.
  • Apply less. More salt does not mean more melting. Use less than 4 pounds of salt per 1,000 square feet. One pound of salt is approximately a heaping 12-ounce coffee mug. Leave about a 3-inch space between granules. Consider purchasing a hand-held spreader to help you apply a consistent amount.
  • Sweep up extra. If salt or sand is visible on dry pavement it is no longer doing any work and will be washed away. Use this salt or sand somewhere else or throw it away.
  • Watch a video, Improved Winter Maintenance produced by the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (including Columbia Heights and Fridley) that shows efficient snow and ice removal.
  • Use a certified Smart Salting contractor. Certified individuals have attended training, passed a test, and agreed to use practices that reduce salt impacts on the environment File (spreadsheet of Smart Salting Level 1 certificate holders). 
  • Be part of the Year of Water Action – Governor Dayton’s initiative to protect the quality of our natural resources. Download and sign the Water Stewardship Pledge!
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