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Editorial: Help to put our lakes on a low salt diet

Too much salt isn't good for you.

And it's not good for our lakes either.

Remember that this winter season if you plan to put salt on the icy spots on your sidewalk or driveway.

In a news release issued this week, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) noted that when snow and ice start to accumulate, on Minnesota roads, parking lots and sidewalks, one of the more common reactions is to apply salt, which contains chloride, a water pollutant. When snow and ice melt, most of the salt goes with it, washing into our lakes, streams and rivers. Once in the water, there's no way to remove the chloride and it becomes a permanent pollutant.

The issue of road salt is serious enough for the MPCA to launch an effort in the Twin Cities to make people more aware of the problem and its consequences. Brooke Asleson, MPCA project manager for the Twin Cities Metro Area chloride project, commented, "Salt is a real threat to water quality. It only takes one teaspoon of road salt to permanently pollute five gallons of water. We are trying to spread the word that less is more when it comes to applying road salt because at high concentrations, chloride can harm the fish and plant life in our waters."

Considering all the lakes there are in this area, residents here, too, should take the salt problem seriously.

The MPCA offers the following ways to reduce salt use while maintaining high safety standards:

n Shovel. The more snow and ice you remove manually, the less salt you will have to use and the more effective it can be. Break up ice with an ice scraper and decide whether application of a de-icer or sand is even necessary to maintain traction.

n More salt does not mean more melting. Use less than four pounds of salt per 1,000 square feet (an average parking space is about 150 square feet). One pound of salt is approximately a heaping 12-ounce coffee mug.

n Fifteen degrees is too cold for most salt to work. Instead, use sand for traction.

n Sweep up extra salt. If salt or sand is visible on dry pavement, it is no longer doing any work and will be washed away.

To learn more about what you can to reduce chloride in our waters, or to find out more about using de-icing salt, visit the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency website at