We use salt to manage snow and ice in Minnesota, but too much can irreparably harm our lakes, streams and rivers. It's time for Minnesota to go on a low-salt diet. (Photo Minnesota Pollution Control Agency)
Chloride or salt is commonly used as a deicer in Minnesota. Unfortunately, it's also been in the headlines this winter as salt levels in our lakes and rivers have increased posing risks to aquatic life and our drinking water.
Salt or chloride is a permanent pollutant; it does not degrade over time in our environment. As a result, just one teaspoon of salt is enough to permanently pollute 5 gallons of water! About 350,000 tons of deicing chemicals are applied just in the metro area each year, and most of it (about 78 percent) is retained in local surface and groundwater.
As we noted in the 2016 State of the River Report, chloride levels in the metro Mississippi River increased 81 percent between 1985 and 2014. While river levels are still low, many nearby lakes and tributaries that connect to the river aren’t so lucky. Of tested metro area water bodies, 39 are impaired for excess chloride with another 38 close to exceeding state standards.
FMR has joined a large and diverse coalition of organizations working to advance chloride reduction legislation, using a voluntary certification approach.
This two-part approach includes the following:
- Voluntary “smart salt” applicator certification
Better training for private and public salt applicators can reduce salt application 30-70 percent without compromising public safety.
A voluntary training program exists today, but only in the metro area (due to current federal funding restrictions). However, federal money is expiring. It’s time for the program to made available statewide.
- Liability protection
Certified "smart salt” contractors would be able to apply for liability protection, reducing their risk while reducing chloride levels and maintaining public safety.
You can help
FMR River Guardians will be the first to know about opportunities to help advance this legislation during the coming 2018 legislative session. If you're not one already, we encourage you to sign up! River Guardians are also invited to special events, including happy hours, where we discuss important legislative and metro river corridor issues.