Less Salt, Safer Roads, Healthier Environment

It’s November, and we’re getting closer to the early arrival of snow. Usually, the first snow in St. Paul comes in October. In recent years, to be exact, on Tuesday, October 20, 2020, southern and central Minnesota received about six-to-nine inches of snow, which broke many records for early-season snowfall. 

Whether you’re an auto service or collision repair provider, driver, property owner or in any other role, it’s essential to consider the removal of snow and ice from driveways, alleys, parking lots and streets. As such, the use of road salt plays a vital role. Salt on roads is a big help in winter to keep us safe. However, more salt does not always mean safer conditions. We can all check and improve how we care for roads during the winter. The amount of salt used is crucial due to Minnesota’s salty water problem. When snow and ice melt, the salt flows into ditches, drains and bodies of water. Minnesota currently has 50 water bodies that exceed the state chloride standard which poses risk to aquatic life, and 75 more water bodies are at risk. Interestingly, road salt is a major source of chloride pollution.

Here are some suggestions to reduce salt usage while maintaining clear parking lots and sidewalks:

  Remove snow and ice manually: Clear as much ice and snow as possible using a shovel, snow blower, snowplow or ice scraper. Removing more reduces ice formation, and less salt is required.

  Spread salt grains three inches apart: Salt should be spread three inches apart to remove snow and ice. Use salt only on trouble spots and areas that are slippery.

  Salt is ineffective at 15°F: At this temperature, many types of salt don’t work. To make surfaces less slippery, you can use sand, but keep in mind that sand doesn’t make ice melt. Visit pca.state.mn.us/news-and-stories/snow-removal-do-it-better-cheaper-and-pollution-free for reference on how to apply the correct product for various conditions: 

  Slow down: Adjust your driving to match the weather and leave ample space for snowplow drivers as they clear the roads.

  Using extra salt doesn’t result in more effective melting: Use less than four pounds of salt per 1,000 square feet (an average parking space is about 150 square feet). To visualize, one pound of salt is approximately equal to the contents of a heaping 12-ounce coffee mug. You may want to consider purchasing a hand-held spreader to ensure an even and consistent amount.

  Clean up any excess: If you can see salt or sand on dry pavement, it’s not effective anymore and will wash away. Consider using it elsewhere or disposing of it properly.

  Staff capacity building: Watch the “Winter Site Maintenance for Small Sites” video. This brief video is helpful for training employees responsible for clearing entryways, sidewalks or similar small areas. You can locate the video on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency webpage at bit.ly/smartsaltonyourown.

  Utilize the (MPCA) free web-based Smart Salting tool (SST) smartsaltingtool.com designed to assist organizations with assessing and reducing salt use during winter maintenance. 

  Hire a certified Smart Salting contractor. Hire a winter maintenance professional trained and certified in limiting salt use.

If you have questions about smart salting, contact the Small Business Environmental Assistance Program at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency at (651) 282-6143 or by email smallbizhelp.pca@state.mn.us. 

Want more? Check out the November 2023 issue of AASP-MN News!