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Road Salt: Less is More

February 7, 2018

Woman putting down small amount of road saltBy mid-winter in Minnesota, roadways, sidewalks, and cars all sport a veneer of road salt. From home-owners to professional salt applicators, cautious Minnesotans don’t just use the recommended 1-3 cups of sodium chloride per 1,000 feet of pavement to get rid of ice, they over-salt. On parking lots and sidewalks, piles of de-icing salt collect from excess application.

This salt becomes pollution that is permanent, says Sue Nissen, a member of Minnesota’s StopOverSalting working group. “There is no feasible way to remove chloride once it dissolves in water. Combine that with the damage salt does to the environment, future drinking water supplies, and infrastructure — the cost of chloride pollution is enormous,” she says.

That’s what got Nissen to skip church one day. Shocked at the caked road salt she saw on the parking lot, she and her husband began chipping. Two and a half hours later, with the help of church youth group members, they’d gotten rid of most of it.

“Drive around many parking lots; you’ll be sick to your stomach,” says this water sports devotee who spent summers — ironically — boating and swimming in Clear Lake, Iowa. “With the next rainfall or snowmelt, everything from the parking lot will be in lakes and rivers, even in groundwater.”

Well-intentioned people think that if a little salt helps, more is better. “It’s just a habit,” says Nissen. “We think we’re doing the right thing.”

Furthermore, commercial applicators often base their fees on the amount of road salt they apply — a practice that works against its more judicious application.

[Continue reading this blog post on Clean Water MN]