As the first major snows of the season arrive, Minnesotans are thinking about clearing snow and ice from pavement — sometimes with salt. We scatter an estimated 365,000 tons of salt in the metro area each year. But it only takes a teaspoon of salt to permanently pollute five gallons of water.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) recommends a low-salt diet for our lakes, streams, and rivers. Much like table salt, rock salt’s benefits are peppered with danger. Salt helps melt ice on roads and sidewalks and protects drivers and pedestrians. But when the snow melts, de-icing salt, which contains chloride, runs into nearby bodies of water and harms aquatic wildlife. Chloride accumulates in the water over time, and there’s no feasible way to treat or remove it.
A University of Minnesota study found that about 78% of salt applied in the Twin Cities for winter maintenance ends up either in groundwater or local lakes and wetlands. The MPCA has found that groundwater in the state’s urban areas often exceeds the state standards for chloride contamination. Forty-seven bodies of water in Minnesota have tested above the standard for chloride, 39 of which are in the Twin Cities metro area.
Though no environmentally safe, effective, and inexpensive alternatives to salt are yet available, smart salting strategies can help reduce chloride pollution in state waters, while saving money and limiting salt damage to infrastructure, vehicles, and plants.
Do your part by following these simple tips:
Learn more on the MPCA's website.
The mission of the MPCA is to protect and improve the environment and enhance human health.
www.pca.state.mn.us • Toll-free and TDD 800-657-3864
PO Box 493
Ely, MN 55731
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