• 34°

Free salt-testing kits offered to public

With several months of icy weather ahead, citizens can help check local streams or lakes this winter for chloride spikes caused by the use of salt on roadways and sidewalks.

Winter Salt Watch, a nationwide, crowd-sourcing campaign run by the nonprofit Izaak Walton League of America, will send a free chloride-testing kit to anyone who requests one and agrees to use the kit’s four chloride-testing strips four times this winter. With each test, volunteers are asked to post a picture of the test results online at www.waterreporter.org.

Salt Watch is expanding its efforts in the state by partnering with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

“Minnesota has a lot of road surfaces that get treated for snow and ice so we want to keep an eye on salt pollution in our waterways and help MPCA locate chloride hotspots around the state,” said Emily Bialowas, who runs Salt Watch.

Mower Soil & Water Conservation District and Cedar River Watershed District encourage the public to request a kit and help gather chloride data on local waterways.

“This is a great way for more people to get engaged in helping to protect and improve our waterways,” said James Fett, SWCD and CRWD’s watershed technician

Excessive salt harms wildlife and human health, and salt is difficult to remove from waterways, Bialowas said.

Volunteers should choose one location – ideally in a river or stream downstream from a road or bridge – to test four times with the free kit for chloride throughout the winter, Bialowas said. As for testing a lake, the kit includes guidelines for monitoring, such as using a dock if there is one because it’s best to get a sample from slightly off the shoreline.

All data is compiled and shared with Salt Watchers so they can see how chloride is affecting local waterways.

Residents can help reduce the amount of salt entering waterways from their own use of salt on sidewalks and driveways. The MPCA says temperatures of 15 degrees and colder are too cold for salt to work; sand should be used instead for traction.

The MPCA also encourages people to apply less salt on ice; more salt does not mean more melting. Less than 4 pounds of salt should be used per 1,000 square feet. Leave about a 3-inch space between salt granules and consider buying a handheld spreader to help apply a consistent amount.