In the Vermillion River Watershed, we’ve improved our water quality over the past 13 years by diverting wastewater away from the river. The chloride (salt) concentration in the river dropped by more than 60% in 2008 and has stayed fairly low ever since. However, that number is starting to increase again, ever so slightly.
While it’s difficult to specifically pinpoint all the sources of chloride pollution, something we can all control is our salt usage. De-icing salt makes life easier for us during the winter, but when the ice melts, the salt goes with it to our rivers and streams. The higher the chloride concentration, the greater the risk to local wildlife and recreation, and if left unchecked, it can seep into the groundwater that we drink.
To reduce your salt use, shovel right away when it snows and use 12 ounces of salt per 10 sidewalk squares, leaving at least three inches between salt granules. (We have some handy cups to help with that.) When you’re done with that, sweep up the excess and reuse it in other spots. If it’s 15 degrees or colder outside, the salt will not work, so don’t use it until it warms up. If you want to learn more, consider joining a Smart Salting training with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
With a little extra knowledge, we can keep our Vermillion River healthy.