MN DOT Cuts Down on Salt Pollution

December 11, 2017 06:05 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- “In this salt shed we have got over 10 tons of salt,” said Mike Dougherty with Public Affairs for the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) in Southeast Minnesota.

With the mix of rain and snow, 102 plows loaded up on salt and began clearing roads in southeastern Minnesota.


During an average season, the local MnDOT uses about 35,000 tons of salt on the roads.

It often ends up in lakes, streams, and groundwater as the snow melts. The problem with that...

“It's really an accumulative, permanent kind of deal,” said Justin Watkins, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Watershed Coordinator for Southeast Minnesota. “It doesn't really come out and it's hard to deal with it.”

According to the MPCA, just a teaspoon of salt can pollute 5 gallons of water forever.

“It can be toxic to fish and bugs,” said Watkins.

Since road salt is still the most efficient and cost-effective clearing method, MnDOT is keeping the environment in mind by reducing the amount being put down.

By monitoring the ground temperature and moisture, MnDOT uses computers …

“That recommend how much salt to put down,” said Dougherty. “That way we are not wasting it.”

Another technique ... using a salt brine. “We use 23.3 % salt within the water,” said Watkins. “You will see us put that down prior to a storm.”

Still, the amount of salt being used fluctuates based on how bad the winter season ends up being. So far, with the very little snowfall we've seen, barely any has been used but...

“Winter really hasn't hit full force yet,” said Dougherty.

MnDOT is working to minimize the harmful impacts of salt. Efforts to be more "green" during the whitest season of the year are paying off. Over a 10 year average, salt usage has gone down.


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