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MPCA officials advise "less is more" approach for smart salting during winter

A look at the technology that tells MnDOT how to treat Minnesota's roads
A look at the technology that tells MnDOT how to treat Minnesota's roads 02:36

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has released some tips to help with de-icing this winter while protecting the state's lakes and streams. 

According to the MPCA, Minnesotans can do their part by using a "less is more" approach to de-icing.

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"Salt — often used to de-ice our paved surfaces — is commonly over-applied, sending too much chloride into our waterways and wreaking havoc for fish and other wildlife," the MPCA said in a release. 

The agency says Minnesotans can use these smart salting tips:

  • Shovel and scrape. The more snow and ice you remove, the less salt is needed to be effective.

  • 15 degrees and below is too cold for salt. Most salts stop working at this temperature. Use sand instead for traction but remember that sand does not melt ice.

  • Use the right amount. That crunch from sidewalk salt under your feet does not signify safety. People often think more salt equals more snow and ice melt. Around 12 ounces – roughly a coffee mug full – effectively treats a 20-foot driveway or 10 sidewalk squares (about 1,000 square feet). Aim to apply salt consistently (e.g. with a spreader), and use only in critical areas.

  • Sweep up visible salt on dry surfaces. It is no longer doing any work and will be washed away into local waters. You can keep it to use later.

  • Take inventory. If you have common icy spots each winter, keep track of them and fix what you can this spring to avoid creating icy conditions next winter.

  • Don't expect perfect conditions. Slow down and drive carefully. Always give plow drivers plenty of space to do their work. Consider purchasing winter tires.

  • Wear proper footwear.  Wear shoes or boots with good traction and pay attention to where you are walking, avoid icy spots, if possible. Take it slow and give yourself extra time to get where you're going.

  • Hire certified Smart Salters. Businesses that need someone to shovel or plow should hire a trained and certified Smart-Salting contractor. Individuals can advocate for reducing salt use in their community, at schools, churches, local businesses, and government agencies.

More information on smart salting can be found on the MPCA website. 

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