Walking the talk on winter salt use

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In winter, it is not uncommon to see higher levels of chloride arrive at the treatment plant due to salts applied to roadways and sidewalks. Left unchecked, these high levels of chloride can pose risks for aquatic health in freshwater systems. In other words, the more salt that comes to the District, the more salt that ends up in rivers after treatment.

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With salt pollution, a little bit goes a long way — 1 teaspoon of salt will permanently pollute 5 gallons of freshwater. By using one less bag of rock salt on sidewalks and road pavement, you can protect 20,000 gallons of water! 

Overuse of road salt isn’t just a concern for wastewater treatment and the rivers around us — it also harms drinking water, lakes, wetlands and soil fertility. Our District is a member of the Wisconsin Salt Wise Partnership, which educates residents on salt reduction practices to protect the local water resources.

It takes more than the people in the seats of plow trucks to change the way salt is used in the winter. Dane County residents, business owners, motorists and pedestrians play a significant role in supporting reduced salt use. 

How you can be salt wise this winter:

  • Take it slow in ice and snow! Leave extra time to get places; walk and drive for the conditions.
  • Shovel. Clear walkways manually before snow turns to ice.
  • Scatter. Leave space between grains. 
    • A coffee mug of salt is enough for a 20-foot driveway or ten sidewalk squares!
  • Change application tools. Instead of a bucket or scoop, use a hand spreader for better scatter. 
  • Be patient. Salt takes time to work, and conditions may change, so wait before applying more.
  • Switch to sand. Salt doesn’t work when pavement temperatures drop below 15 degrees.

Visit the Wisconsin Salt Wise site to take action on salt safety and help protect our waters.