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Safe sidewalks and clean lakes

Post Date:12/03/2019 11:16 AM

Many Minnesota lakes and rivers are contaminated with too much salt. It’s often referred to as chloride pollution because from the sodium chloride compound it’s the chloride that is sticks around and causes problems. Significant chloride pollution occurs this time of year from the salt used to remove ice from pavement and walkways.

Impossible and corrosive

Once in a lake, chloride is virtually impossible to remove. And it doesn’t take much. Just one teaspoon a salt contains enough chloride to permanently pollute five gallons of water.  Beyond our lakes and river chlorides is causing additional problems.

  • Salt has contaminated groundwater in areas of Minnesota. Twenty-seven percent of monitoring wells in the metro area’s shallow aquifers had chloride concentrations exceeding drinking water guidelines. Thirty percent of Twin Cities wells had chloride concentrations that exceeded the water quality standard.
  • High chloride concentrations are toxic to fish, aquatic bugs, amphibians, and birds who might mistakenly ingest the pieces.It can also harm our pets who may lick it off their paws or drink salty snowmelt.
  • In the landscape it kills plants, trees and lawns, and changes soil so future growth is difficult.
  • It corrodes metal in vehicles, roads and bridges. It damages pavement on roads, bridges, garages, sidewalks and building facades and entrances.

Reduce use and keep it safe

The best way to prevent ice and ice-related slip and falls is to shovel. Shovel early and shovel often. That way the snow doesn’t have time to become compacted and turn to ice. Remove the snow and there is less there to turn to ice, reducing the need for salt.

If you have tricky areas where ice tends to build up, apply a liquid de-icer before the storm. This prevents the ice from bonding to the pavement and makes it easier to remove.  Make your own liquid de-icer by mixing two cups of hot water with one cup of salt.

Salt only works once it is dissolved. If you can see salt on your driveway hours after it’s been applied, it isn’t doing any work. Sweep it up and use it again next time. Otherwise, it will just blow away or wash into storm drains with the next melt.

Drive like its winter

Snow plow operators and equipment have gotten exceptionally good at getting us clear pavement. So good that no matter what mother nature brings, the expectation is dry pavement. The country of Sweden, another snowy area, doesn’t have chloride problems. A University of Wisconsin study looked at 114 lakes in Sweden, and even the lakes close to roads have low chloride levels. There is almost no salt used there. Drivers just go slower.

Plan extra time for your travels and if you don’t have to, don’t drive during poor road conditions.

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