City of Rochester working to reduce amount of road salt used

It’s Road Salt Awareness Week.
Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 4:14 PM CST
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – It’s Road Salt Awareness Week, a time to learn more about the impacts road salt has on our drinking water and freshwater ecosystems.

Rochester Public Works says around 80 percent of salt will eventually reach the water stream. Once the snow melts, the water and salt get flushed into our rivers, lakes and streams. One teaspoon of salt can permanently pollute five gallons of water.

The salt can affect micro-organisms in the water which prevents the water from re-oxygenizing.

Rochester Public Works uses salt to treat ice on the roads when the temperature is more than 15 degrees. When it’s less than 15 degrees, salt isn’t effective, so crews will instead use salt treated with a chemical or a mixture of salt and sand.

Public Works says the city uses road salt, because it’s the most cost effective, but are working to use less of it to treat roads.

“It is a serious problem. Unfortunately, in this day and age, we have to drive. We have to be safe driving. So it’s always a balance of trying to protect the environment but yet making sure it’s safe for motorists to get around in the winter,” Rochester street maintenance manager Dan Plizga said.

To help reduce the amount of salt used, Public Works crews are focusing on scraping down the ice with their plows. They also use a special technology in their plows to track the amount of salt they should use depending on the road type and weather.

Public works also recommends cleaning up any salt left over in the spring, so it doesn’t harm your grass.