You should think twice before salting your sidewalk

It's damaging Minnesota's lakes, bridges and plant life.

The Essentials

1. Every winter, Minnesota dumps 730 million tons of salt on its icy roads. 

2. About 78 percent of the salt applied to Twin Cities roads, parking lots, and sidewalks during the winter ends up in groundwater, local lakes or wetlands.

3. A single teaspoon of road salt is enough to pollute five gallons of water, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). A total of 47 bodies of water in Minnesota have tested above the standard level for chloride, and 39 are in the Twin Cities metro.

The Big Picture

The MPCA released a "chloride management plan" in the Twin Cities metro last year, MPR reports. It focuses on "smart salt" plans for local roads – which basically means using the minimum amount of salt necessary.

While not eradicating salt damage, the MPCA says it helps reduce chloride pollution in state waters, save money and limit the damage to flora and fauna, and infrastructure.

MinnPost notes that some local governments have taken steps to "brine" roads before storms, which can cut salt use by between 40 and 70 percent.

For homeowners, the MPCA recommends shoveling more and salting less. Ideally, that's fewer than four pounds of salt – about a heaping 12-ounce coffee mug – per 1,000 square feet.

A hand-held spreader can help apply a consistent amount, with three-inch spaces between granules ideal. After salt melts the snow, sweep up any left over so it doesn't find its way into the water.

Also, most salts stop working below 15 degrees. You can find more information on salt reduction efforts here.

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