January 1, 2018, the winter catch-and-release trout season opened for southeastern Minnesota. We used this day to remind people to be smart about spreading salt and other chlorides that melt ice on our sidewalks, driveways, and roads. Fortunately, the news media carried that message to a broad audience on New Year’s Day! Thank you to reporter Samuel King at Fox 9 News, and reporter Gordon Severson at KARE-11, and to WCCO-TV Channel 4, (and their intrepid photojournalists slogging their cameras and tripods, capturing awesome video, and editing it excellently. I’m sorry I didn’t get your names!)
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency reports that chlorides are running off with snowmelt into our wetlands, lakes and streams, and accumulating at toxic levels in some cases. It is even showing up in drinking water wells. Toxic levels of chlorides kill fish, aquatic bugs, and salt-intolerant vegetation, both along roadsides, and in the water.
Here are five simple tips to save your salt, save you money, and protect our waterways from chloride pollution
Shovel to the ground first, then apply salt. Otherwise the snow will just absorb it, and you’ll have to use more salt.
Save your salt until the weather gets warmer. Salt stops working at 15 degrees ABOVE zero, and even alternative ice melters lose their effectiveness below zero.
Cut down on using expensive salt, and use more cheap sand instead. It will provide traction at any temperature. You can buy tubes of dried sand, which won’t freeze, making it easy to spread.
Use a hand spreader or wheel spreader. You can control the amount you spread better, and get more even coverage.
Sweep up and save any salt that is sitting on a dry sidewalk or driveway. Otherwise it will wash away, carrying chlorides.
Winter is a great time to learn about making a rain garden or some other clean water project for your yard, so you’re ready to go this spring. They look nice, and they hold water runoff so it soaks into the ground, instead of carrying pollutants down a storm drain and into a lake or stream.
You can get design help, and financial assistance, at workshops called Landscaping for Clean Water. Learn about them online at the Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District: www.dakotaswcd.org .