REGIONAL— The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is asking residents to limit their use of salt to maintain sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots this winter. It can save you money and help …
REGIONAL— The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is asking residents to limit their use of salt to maintain sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots this winter. It can save you money and help protect Minnesota lakes from a growing problem that is, in some cases, affecting aquatic life.
Salt — often used to de-ice our paved surfaces — is commonly over-applied, sending too much chloride into our waterways, where it’s toxic to fish and other wildlife, according to the MPCA. It takes just one teaspoon of salt to permanently pollute five gallons of water and once in the water, it’s there for good. Chloride from de-icing is one of the largest contributors to a growing salty water problem in Minnesota.
That’s why the MPCA is urging Minnesotans to adopt a “less is better” strategy for salting surfaces and to use other tools to get the job done.
Minnesotans scatter an estimated 445,000 tons of chloride-containing salt each year. Not only does salt damage infrastructure and rust our cars, it harms the environment. When salt is spread on paved surfaces, it inevitably runs off into nearby lakes and streams. Some lakes now contain so much chloride from winter salt use that they have been added to the state’s list of impaired waters.
Minnesotans can take action this winter with these smart salting tips:
• Shovel and scrape. The more snow and ice you remove, the less salt is needed to be effective.
• 15 degrees F and below is too cold for salt. Most salts stop working at this temperature. Use sand instead for traction but remember that sand does not melt ice.
• Use the right amount. That crunch from sidewalk salt under your feet does not signify safety. Around 12 ounces – roughly a coffee mug full – effectively treats a 20-foot driveway or 10 sidewalk squares (about 1,000 square feet). Aim to apply salt consistently (e.g. with a spreader), and use only in critical areas.
• Sweep up visible salt on dry surfaces. It is no longer doing any work and will be washed away into local waters. You can keep it to use later.
• Take inventory. If you have common icy spots each winter, keep track of them and fix what you can this spring to avoid creating icy conditions next winter.
• Wear proper footwear. Wear shoes or boots with good traction and pay attention to where you are walking, avoid icy spots, if possible. Take it slow and give yourself extra time to get where you’re going.
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