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Salt pollution

Winter in Minnesota means sledding and snowmen, and it also means managing snow and ice on our driveways and sidewalks. Have you ever wondered what happens to the salt we put down to melt ice? It doesn’t go away!

Salt washes into stormdrains and flows through pipes to local lakes, streams, and wetlands, where it becomes pollution. Just one teaspoon of salt is enough to pollute five gallons of water. Salt pollution harms plants and animals, and contaminates drinking water. Decreasing salt use is a powerful way to protect Minnesota’s waters. The Riley Purgatory Bluff Creek Watershed District partners with cities, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and other organizations to host trainings for winter maintenance professionals and property managers. These workshops guide professionals in best practices for winter safety that also protect clean water.

You can help too! Use the tips below to help decrease salt use around your home and be a part of the clean water solution:

1.     Shovel:  Shovel first! Clear walkways and other areas before the snow turns to ice. The more snow you can remove manually, the less salt you will need to use, and the more effective it will be.

2.     Scatter:  If you need to apply salt to pavement, scatter the salt widely, leaving space between grains of salt. A coffee mug of salt is enough for 60-70 feet of sidewalk, or two parking spots. A hand or push spreader helps too!

3.     Switch: When the pavement temperature is below 15 degrees, salt doesn’t work. When cold temperatures are predicted, try to shovel and remove ice before it hits. Use a little sand for traction if needed.

4.     Sweep: Sweep up extra salt. Salt only works once it is dissolved. If you can see salt on your driveway, it isn’t doing any work. Sweep it up, and use it again next time.

Tools & resources

Salt Smart toolkit: includes materials to help you use less salt, and let others know why.Salt smart toolkit.png