MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We had a long winter and that meant we put a lot of salt on our roadways. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says much of that salt has ended up in our lakes and rivers.

The MPCA said they’ve learned a lot of about salt usage over the past 10 years, and its impact on aquatic life and the environment.

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When the snow and ice melt, and the grass turns green, Lake Phalen comes alive. But as busy as it is along the shoreline, researchers are keeping track of what’s happening below the surface.

“Within the Twin Cities metro area there are approximately 50 water bodies that have too much chloride or too much salt in them already. It’s already impacting the fish and aquatic communities,” Katrina Kessler. assistant commissioner for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said.

She said the biggest culprit is road salt. It’s estimated that about 350,000 tons of road salt are used each year in the Twin Cities. It also doesn’t help when winter weather lingers into spring.

“When it snows in April and May it is frustrating and ultimately and a little bit disheartening when we see that people and municipalities are still having to apply deicing chemicals to make sure people are safe,” Kessler said.

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This isn’t just an outside problem with salt trucks. The MPCA says that inside our homes, water softeners are also having a major impact on our waterways. That’s why they are asking homeowners to consider using softeners that come with on-demand softening.

“Those, over time, use less salt because it’s only as needed,” Kessler said.

She also recommends setting your softener to use as little salt as possible.

As for roadways, brine and beet juice have been used as alternatives. But so far no there hasn’t been a sure-fire substitute for salt.

“There is no silver bullet with regards to winter maintenance. As long as we have the expectation that we will drive, commute, be out and about in the winter, we will have to apply something to keep the traveling public safe,” Kessler said.

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The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will have a public information meeting beginning at 8:30 Thursday morning at the Dakota Lodge in West St. Paul.

John Lauritsen