By Madeline Seveland, Carver County Water Management
Salt application to winter roads began in earnest in 1938. With increased traffic and need for safe roads, salt use on winter roads has resulted in many metro area waters becoming more and more salty.
All that salt washes into lakes, rivers and wetlands via stormdrains, which carry rain and snowmelt from any hard surface such as streets, parking lots or driveways to nearby lakes, rivers and wetlands. Salt harms plants and animals, contaminants drinking water, damages buildings and corrodes vehicles, roads and bridges.
It only takes 1 tsp of salt to permanently pollute a 5 gallon bucket of water and this salt can’t be collected, settled or treated with anything short of reverse osmosis (which is spendy). The most practical solution is to use less and use it appropriately. Do your part by following these strategies to keep safe surfaces around the home and help protect our lakes, rivers and wetlands.
Before the Storm: Apply a liquid de-icer before snow storms to prevent snow and ice buildup and make shoveling more effective. Make your own liquid de-icer by missing two cups of hot water with one cup of salt.
Less is Better: If leftover salt crystals are still visible after salt has been applied, you’ve used too much. Sweep up the leftover salt and re-use it, or dispose of it in the trash.
Shovel that Snow: Shovel, snow blow, or plow and/or sweep the snow. These are most effective in removing snow and minimizing ice buildup.
Temperature Matters: At low temperatures (under 15°F), salt becomes less effective, so check your product for details. When the temperature falls below 15 degrees Fahrenheit, consider using sand instead of salt for traction.
Homeowner Associations: If you live in a townhome, apartment or condominium, talk to your association about encouraging the snow removal contractor to reduce salt use.
Remember: use salt only if needed. Shovel first!