While salt helps keep roads, parking lots and sidewalks safe during icy weather, too much salt harms streams and water quality, Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District officials stated.
To keep an eye on this form of pollution, volunteer water monitors across Minnesota are sampling chloride levels with salt-monitoring kits as a part of the Salt Watch program, managed by the Izaak Walton League of America.
“Everyone has the opportunity to get involved and help reduce chloride and protect our water resources,” Brooke Asleson of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said in a news release.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency partners with the Ieague and monitors chloride levels in the state. The agency also offers Smart Salting training to salt applicators that teaches practices and strategies for reducing salt use while maintaining safe winter surfaces.
“Excessive salt harms wildlife and human health, which is why we carefully monitor local salt levels and advocate for more efficient use of salt on roads and sidewalks by transportation authorities and property owners,” stated Emily Bialowas, Salt Watch program coordinator.
The Izaak Walton League distributed test kits last winter to volunteers who documented salt levels in streams across more than a dozen states. Of the 81 results submitted to the league, 48% yielded high readings. Of the high readings, 69% were at toxic levels.
While road salt can improve driving safety during icy conditions, the salt eventually washes into watersheds where it damages the quality of drinking water and harms aquatic life in freshwater streams and lakes.
Ideally, freshwater lakes and streams should have low to no salt content. Levels above 100 parts per million exceed naturally occurring concentrations of salt. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, concentrations above 230 ppm are toxic to aquatic life with prolonged exposure.
To request a Winter Salt Watch kit, visit the Izaak Walton League of America website at www.iwla.org, or contact the Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-828-6197.