From street to stream, road salt is adding up in MN

11:26 PM, Feb 10, 2009   |    comments
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The aptly named Battle Creek in St. Paul is currently listed on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's impaired waters list.

It's there, in part, because Battle Creek is among waters being hurt by the way we battle winter weather.

It's being damaged by the salt thrown on nearby roads that is ending up in the stream. "It affects the fish and the bug community living in the water," MPCA Watershed Specialist Brooke Asleson said. "And so if the fish and bugs and aquatic vegetation isn't surviving, eventually the stream will also not have good water quality conditions for fishing, swimming, recreation."

The bad news about Battle Creek isn't unique.

"As we apply more salt to the roads, the lake chloride concentrations are increasing as well," St. Anthony Falls Lab graduate student Eric Novotny said while referencing the research he helped calculate.

University of Minnesota researchers like Novotny studied salt stats from nearly 40 area waterways.

Click here to see the full report.

"How much is being applied, how much is leaving through the Mississippi River. How much is staying in our lakes and ground water," Novotny continued. That number that's sticking-- more than 70-percent-- shocked researchers.

"We are bringing salt in to Minnesota, that's not going away," U of M Professor of Civil Engineering Heinz Stefan said. "The question becomes what should we do?"

The first step, according to Asleson, Stefan and others, is education about salt's effectiveness. "To prevent and minimize the amount of salt we're using," she added.

Researchers say when applied with a brine solution, and in the right temperatures, less salt is needed to stave off slippery spots. "A lot of overuse is happening, where you can cut back and save money, as well as reduce the chloride entering in our waters," Asleson said.

In the end, the less salt, the better for the environment and the budget to battle winter weather.

Click here to read more about the University of Minnesota's research.

By Jeff Olsen, KARE 11 News


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(Copyright 2009 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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