Tips for Staying Safe in Winter

 De-icing salt is so common here in snowy Minnesota, we hardly even think before tossing it down. But we really should be thinking hard because all that salt accumulates in local streams, lakes, and wetlands causing stress and sometimes death to native animals and vegetation. Salt dissolves easily in water which means it's almost impossible to remove without expensive and time-consuming treatment. Road and sidewalk safety is a priority for all of us, so what is an environmentally conscious Minnesotan to do if they want to stay safe and minimize their salt use? Here are some tips!

Shovel First. Shovel and scrape sidewalks before they are walked on so ice doesn't have a chance to form in the first place.

Choose the Right Salt. Different chemicals work at different pavement temperatures. Be sure to choose the right one for the conditions. Sodium chloride, the most common de-icer, will only work when the pavement temperature is above 15 degrees F.

Scatter Salt Grains. Granular salt melts ice fastest when the grains are spread 3 inches apart. Contrary to popular belief, adding more salt will actually make the ice melt slower!

Sweep up Excess. If there is salt left on the ground after all the ice is gone, sweep it into a bucket to use in the next storm. You paid for it so don't let it wash away!

Pre-treat Pavement. Applying a liquid de-icer to pavement 24-48 hours before a storm will help prevent ice from adhering to the surface and make it a lot easier to scrape up.

Wear Proper Footwear. Boots with extra traction such as cleats or spikes reduce the risk that you may slip and fall. They are a worthwhile investment here in Minnesota where we're bound to encounter ice at some point.

Avoid Distractions. We all know not to drive while we're distracted. The same goes for walking! Avoid using cell phones while walking and keep your eyes on the path in front of you.

Drive for the Conditions. Here in Minnesota, there is no escaping the snow and ice. Remember that you are ultimately responsible for your own safety, so always drive with caution.

Do the Penguin Shuffle. Always anticipate icy conditions and keep yourself safe by walking on marked paths near handrails.

If you See Something, Say Something! As an environmentally conscious Minnesotan, one of the best things you can do to combat chloride pollution in our waters is to talk to your friends, neighbors, and local businesses. Pressure from residents like you can help turn the tide and protect our valuable freshwater resources now and for many generations to come.

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Cut back on Salt to Protect Minnesota’s Infrastructure, Water Quality, and Aquatic Wildlife

The Twin Cities Metro applies 350,000 tons of road salt every year, but have you ever wondered where it goes when winter ends?

Stormwater and snowmelt carry dissolved road salt into lakes, streams, and groundwater when winter thaws out. Chloride, a major part of road salt compounds, is especially stubborn in water. Once it dissolves, there is no feasible method to remove chloride from water, and stormwater treatment solutions like stormwater ponds and rain gardens are ineffective at removing chloride. Instead, chloride gradually accumulates in our water bodies, harming fish and other aquatic life. The corrosive nature of road salt also contributes between $350 million and $1.2 billion in infrastructure costs each year to the Metro area alone.

What can we do about it?

Here are some helpful tips you can use to make your driveways and sidewalks safer and better for the environment this winter:

Shovel!

Salt is never a substitute for shoveling. Shovel your snow and ice first so that salt is only used for melting ice stuck to the ground.

Salt!

Traditional salt (sodium chloride) does not melt ice when the temperature is below 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a low-temperature alternative such as magnesium chloride or calcium chloride to melt ice at lower temperatures or use sand to add traction. There is no such thing as an "environmentally friendly" salt, so it's best to stick to salt that will work in the given range of temperatures.

Scatter!

Did you know you only need a 12-oz. mug of salt to effectively de-ice a 20-foot driveway or 10 sidewalk squares? When applying salt, aim to leave 2" between grains.

Sweep!

Sweeping up leftover salt and reusing it later is a great way to save money and limit the amount of salt getting into nearby waterways.


 Do you hire a contractor to maintain a sidewalk, driveway, or parking lot? Check out the MPCA's list of Smart Salting certificate holders to find a contractor trained on best practices for winter maintenance: https://www.pca.state.mn.us/sites/default/files/p-tr1-01.xlsx

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