Winter Salt Awareness Week, learning how much salt is too much
From January 21st-27th is the first nationwide Winter Salt Awareness Week. Wisconsin is already steps ahead with a coalition Wisconsin Salt Wise helping people learn about how harmful salt can be.
Roughly 30,000 tons of salt is used every year in Dane County, Wisconsin. According to Allison Madison, the Program Director of Wisconsin Salt Wise that amount of salt can pollute up to 23 billion gallons of water.
“What we’re seeing in Wisconsin and Minnesota, is that our fresh water is slowly but surely becoming less fresh. Salt in our drinking water can actually cause other chemicals to be released,” Madison said. “If we think about the lead crisis in Flint, the fact that they were drawing salted water from the Flint River increased the amount of lead that was coming out of those pipes.”
Once the salt gets into water it is very difficult to remove. Water treatments like reverse osmosis or ion exchange, is costly to install and even more expensive to operate. It could cost millions or even billions of dollars according to Wisconsin Salt Wise.
“All the salt that we put down is making its way into our water,” Madison said. “Every one teaspoon of salt pollutes five gallons of water to a point that the EPA has acknowledged is damaging to aquatic organisms. So once that sodium and the chloride break apart, they’re in our water and they’re there to stay. There’s no feasible way to really remove that it’s incredibly energetically expensive.”
Prevention is the key to using less salt, the sooner people get out shovel snow or use a snow blower the better. Mike Ostrenga with the Wisconsin Department of Transpiration said there’s no point in using salt if the temperatures are below 0 degrees.
“The pavement temperatures are key when you’re laying salt down. When you get real cold temperatures, if the pavement temperatures are under ten degrees Fahrenheit, salt doesn’t work. Snowplow drivers and residents have a tendency to throw more salt down to try to make things work. You don’t want to do that.”