Salt pollutes. Snowmelt and rain wash leftover sidewalk salt into local lakes and groundwater. Once there, it cannot be removed. Too much salt can harm fish and plants in local lakes. Follow these tips to reduce your impact when clearing snow and ice.
"If you see it, it was overdone," a Master Water Steward sums it up perfectly. If you see a bunch of salt left behind after you've completed your snow and ice clearing, it's time to sweep up what's left behind.
Here are 7 pollution reducing best practices for sidewalk salt recommended by CleanWaterMN.org:
- Remove snow early, when it’s still easy to shovel. Use a scraper to remove packed snow.
- Shovel often; and, if you can’t shovel, hire someone who can.
- Only use salt on ice, not snow.
- Don’t use sodium chloride when it is colder than 15°F—it won’t work. Magnesium chloride and calcium chloride work at colder temperatures (-10° and -20° respectively).
- 1lb of salt (one heaping coffee mug) is enough to clear a 20-foot driveway or 10 sidewalk squares (250 sq. ft.)
- Sweep up and reuse left-over salt.
- When it is too cold for salt, use sand to create friction instead. You can sweep up and reuse the sand as well.
The City of Apple Valley has made a concerted effort over the last 15 years to reduce the amount of road salt applied to City streets while maintaining the same level of safety. The City ensures that staff members responsible for winter salt application are certified through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Smart Salting Certification program - over 15 certified staff members. A number of new technologies that reduce the amount of salt applied have been implemented, such as the application of brine prior to storms on major roads when conditions warrant. Best management practices, such as ensuring salt application equipment is calibrated, are part of regular procedure.
If you are responsible for hiring contractors to clear snow and ice for a local business, homeowners association, school, or religious institution, you can make sure you are reducing your environmental impact by hiring a certified applicator or making sure your maintenance staff are trained.