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This group includes everyone living or working in the TCMA. Each person contributes to the attitudes and practices that have created a high and steadily growing volume of salt to be used each year. In order to reverse this situation each person must contribute to changing attitudes and practices that are more sustainable and require less salt. The list of actions that this group can take is extensive. Citizens form public policy, set the expectations that our maintenance crews must live up to, and use salt on their own property such as water softening and salting their sidewalks in the winter. Engaging the citizenry in the TCMA offers the best chance to get salt use under control.
There are many ways to reduce salt use while maintaining high safety standards. Below are a few simple steps that residents can take to help reduce the amount of chloride entering waters. More ideas are listed on the MPCA’s website.
Citizens can look for ways to reduce salt use. Every teaspoon of salt reduction prevents five gallons of water from being polluted. Small changes can have big results. Typically the biggest salt uses are sidewalk/driveway/steps (winter maintenance) salt and water softeners, with the outdoor use for winter maintenance being the largest use.
- Support local and state winter maintenance crews in their efforts to reduce their salt use.
- Work together with local government, businesses, schools, churches, and non-profits to find ways to reduce salt use in the community.
- Inform and educate local and state policy makers on the importance of this issue.
- Shovel. The more snow and ice removed manually, the less salt is needed and the more effective it can be. Whether through shoveling, blowing, plowing or scraping, getting out early and keep up with the storm. Salt may not be needed.
- Do not apply salt to areas that have not been shoveled.
- Generally speaking, sidewalk salts work better when it is warmer. Below 15°F is too cold for salt as most salts stop working at this pavement temperature. Use sand instead for traction, but remember that sand does not melt ice. If melting snow or ice look for opportunities when the sun is shining or the temperatures are warming, which will be more effective with less salt.
- Slow down. Drive for the conditions and make sure to give plow drivers plenty of space to do their work. Consider purchasing winter (snow) tires.
- Be patient. If the salt is not visible on the road doesn't mean it hasn't been applied. These products take time to work. Allow more time for trips to account for driving at a slower speed.
- More salt does not mean more melting. Use less than 4 pounds of salt per 1,000 square feet (an average parking space is about 150 square feet). One pound of salt is approximately a heaping 12-ounce coffee mug. Consider purchasing a hand-held spreader to apply a consistent amount.
- Sweep up extra salt and sand. If salt or sand is visible on dry pavement it is no longer doing any work and will be washed away. Reuse this salt or sand somewhere else.
- Research the products. Choose the right one for the conditions. Salts are used because they are able to decrease the freezing point of water. Whatever product selected, know the temperature it stops working.
- There are no labeling laws for bags of deicers. Therefore the information on the bag may be accurate or misleading; it may contain a list of all ingredients, a partial list, or no ingredient list. See the MPCA salt & water quality website for information on common deicers and the practical melting ranges.
- Watch a video. This video, produced by the MWMO, provides tips to homeowners about more environmentally friendly snow and ice removal: Improved Winter Maintenance: Good Choices for Clean Water.
- Read and pass along Nine Mile Creek Watershed District's (NMCWD) brochure about residential snow and ice care: Residential snow and ice care (NMCWD)
- Use a high efficiency water softener.
- Avoid using softened water for irrigation or drinking water.
- Do not use a water softener if source water is already softened by the WWTP.