Skip to main content

State agency wants you to use less salt on sidewalks – here's why

  • Author:
  • Updated:

With temperatures becoming more wintry and snow falling in parts of the state this week, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued a plea to homeowners about salting their sidewalks.

It is calling on people to limit the amount of salt you use when clearing sidewalks and driveways of snow and ice, because of the potential it has to pollute the state's lakes, rivers and water supplies.

It says that rock salt, which is also used by the state's road salting teams, may have safety benefits but they also have environmental drawbacks – polluting waters and poisoning aquatic wildlife.

The MPCA estimates that 78 percent 0f the salt applied to roads and paving in the Twin Cities metro stays within the area's watershed, with chloride from the salt eventually finding its way into the groundwater supply.

"Too much chloride has serious water quality consequences." Brooke Asleson, chloride project manager at the MPCA, said in the press release. "Less is more when it comes to applying deicing salt. It only takes one teaspoon of road salt to pollute five gallons of water."

The MPCA is partnering with metro area counties to more effectively protect waters from salt pollution, but in the meantime has several suggestions for how homeowners and drivers can reduce their salt use:

  • Shovel the snow and ice before salting, meaning you have to use less.
  • Apply salt before snowfall, which prevents snow and ice from building up.
  • Slow down and be patient behind slow-moving plows – the slower they drive, the more salt stays on the road.
  • Stop applying salt at below 15 degrees – it stops working. Use sand instead for traction.
  • Don't use too much – no more than 4 pounds is required for a 1,000 square foot area.
  • Sweep up leftover salt after snow/ice has melted – it's no longer serving a purpose.

Mashable reported last year that in the metro area every winter, the equivalent of 260 pounds of salt per person is used by authorities.

A previous MPCA study found that 39 water bodies in the metro area were found to have higher salt levels than the water-quality standard.

Next Up

Karl-Anthony Towns

Timberwolves survive Knicks' second-half barrage to get back to .500

Karl-Anthony Towns' lay-in helped Minnesota get a win in The Garden.

FLickr - crime scene tape do not crozz

Charges: MN teen shot mom after dispute over meth

The girl's mother said there had been a dispute over methamphetamine.

bad roads, blizzard

No travel advised: High winds, whiteout conditions in NW MN

Zero visibility in parts of greater Minnesota Tuesday night.

holy angels high school j nelson

Update: Holy Angels evacuated over bomb threat, school says

Someone left a voicemail early Tuesday suggesting there was an explosive device.

radio station, microphone

Convicted stalker charged with harassment of another DJ at The Current

He pleaded guilty to similar charges involving the DJ's colleague back in 2015.

Mall of America exterior Tyler Vigen Wikimedia COmmons

10 new shops, food stops at Mall of America

Donuts, K-fashion, model cars — the new tenants cover a lot of bases.

Gophers basketball

Gophers fall below roster minimum, postpone Penn State game

It is "due to internal COVID-19 protocols within the Golden Gopher program."

Raheem Morris

Report: Vikings request interview with Rams' Raheem Morris

Morris was once the youngest head coach in the NFL at 33 years old.

train crossing S Boardman Ave, New York Mills, Minnesota - August 2013 crop GSV

Sheriff: Drunk driver crashed trying to 'beat the train'

The BNSF train slammed into the side of the driver's car.


Man run over after parking dispute leads to road rage crash

The two groups fought about parking prior to the crash.

hwy 41 engler boulevard crash crop

Deadly crash shuts down small stretch of Chaska highway for hours

A driver crossed over the center median and hit another vehicle.

covid test 6

You can now order 4 free at-home COVID tests from the government

Tests will ship for free within 7-12 days, according to the White House.


You should think twice before salting your sidewalk

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

Icy road

Overnight freeze means icy roads, sidewalks through Saturday

All that rain? All the snowmelt? Yeah, it's gonna freeze.