"Sidewalk Salt Dangers"

By KBJR News 1

February 17, 2011 Updated Feb 17, 2011 at 12:58 PM CDT

We all use it every winter, sidewalk salt and sand to keep our driveways and sidewalks clear and safe.

But in this weeks "Your Green Life" Meteorologist Jeff Edmondson looks into how it hurts our environment and what we can do to reduce our impact.

"It kills the brush, it kills your flowers and it soaks right into your ground", said a local Duluth Resident.

We are talking about sidewalk salt, we all know it's a must–have for every Northland winter, but too much of it can cause significant damage to plants, animals and our local trout streams.

"What we see is a color mapping of conductivity which is a measure of salt content or ions. When that color becomes magenta it means that we have reached levels of chronic toxicity to brook trout", said Andrea Crouse with the UMD: NRRI

For the past several years, The University of Minnesota Duluth Extension's Natural Resource Research Institute has studied the area streams across Duluth and has discovered that our local streams feel the strain all winter long.

Storms like the Christmas Blizzard of 2009 Brought rainfall down by the lake and heavy snow for areas inland. Most of this rain washed all of the chemicals into our streams.
So how can we use salt and sand more effectively?

"15 to 20 degrees is kind of the magic number. If the temperatures are above that salt can be effective at melting built up ice", said Crouse.

If it's colder grab the ice chipper or ditch the salt and grab the sand.

"Its critical to use small amounts of sand just enough to keep the traction", said Crouse.

Other things you can consider is adding pervious pavement for your driveway or parking lot so water runoff is reduced and having your snow plowed over your yard so it melts and drains into the soil.
For Your Green Life, I'm Meteorologist Jeff Edmondson, The Northlands NewsCenter.

Researchers also stress to never sweep excess sand down the storm drain as that goes directly to area streams.