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Article by the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District
Did you know it only takes one teaspoon of road salt to permanently pollute five gallons of water? Once salt has entered the water, there is no way to remove it and it continues to accumulate. High levels of chlorides can harm fish, aquatic plants, groundwater, and drinking water.
Each fall, Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) partners with Fortin Consulting, Inc to host and provide winter maintenance trainings for public works employees who maintain winter roads and property managers and contractors who maintain parking lots, driveways, and sidewalks. During these trainings, instructors discuss not only how to properly care for pavement in the winter to keep it safe for drivers and pedestrians, but also why it’s so important to keep chlorides (salt-based products) from running down storm drains and entering our lakes, rivers, and streams.
Just in the Twin Cities metro area alone, 39 surface waters exceed the water quality standard for chlorides and an additional 38 surface waters are almost above the standard. Many other waterbodies in the region have yet to be tested. This pollution is directly caused by the use of salt on our winter roads, driveways, sidewalks, and parking lots.
The takeaway of the winter maintenance trainings is that we can keep our winter roads safe, while also protecting our water resources. For professionals removing snow and ice, it’s important for them to only apply as much deicer as needed (adding extra doesn’t increase effectiveness), use the right amount at the right time, calibrate equipment annually, check pavement temperatures before spreading, and to watch the weather so they can remove snow early.
The professionals aren’t the only ones who can help keep chlorides out of our water – homeowners can too! For homeowners, some winter maintenance tips are:
To learn more about how you can stop chlorides from entering our waters, check out this video: http://bit.ly/2ypXrNo. Learn more on MCWD's website: http://minnehahacreek.org/snow-removal-and-salt.