By Caroline Cummings

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) —The city of Minneapolis is asking its residents to use less salt when de-icing sidewalks and driveways this winter season in an effort to preserve the environment.

The salt on icy road can leak into storm drains, lakes and groundwater when the snow melts and is harmful to fish, plants and even pets.

READ MORE: Good Question: How Does Salt Melt Ice?

The concentration of it is increasing in bodies of water, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, which says 50 Minnesota lakes and streams have chloride levels too high to meet the standard designed to protect fish and other aquatic life, and an additional 75 water bodies have chloride levels near the level.

The city’s pledge to “salt wisely” is aimed at prevention and keeping even more salt contamination at bay. It hopes residents will use it sparingly when needed or alternatives.

“We understand using salt for winter road management is a tool, and we’re dependent on it,” said Shahram Missaghi, water resources regulatory coordinator at Minneapolis Public Works. “But it’s a balance between safety and a healthy environment.”

Elena Nelson, co-owner of Nicollet Ace Hardware near the Kingfield neighborhood said she’s seen an increased interest among her customers in using ice melts that aren’t salt or natural relief like salt- and chemical-free grit, which is crushed rock.

It doesn’t melt the ice, but gives traction for people walking on their sidewalks or driveways.

“It is trending upwards, we are selling more of it every year,” she said.

Deborah Pina of Minneapolis said she switched to that alternative two years ago because it’s better for her concrete driveway and the environment.

“Anything that is going to help keep our waterways and the lakes clean and where everyone can enjoy it come summer and all that, I think it is beneficial,” she said.

Chloride in road salt can also trigger costly damages to roads and bridges. The city of Minneapolis still uses salt when plowing roads during a snowstorm, Missaghi noted, but it’s curtailed the practice over the last two decades.

“We understand that we have to use salt, but the trick is how little can I use to provide safety,” he said.

Caroline Cummings