Hold the Salt: Road Engineers Look to Cut Back Usage on Minnesota's Roads

February 09, 2018 10:16 PM

Minnesota's roads need to cut the salt from their diet.

That's the word being spread by the state's pollution control agency as public works employees are trained at the 2018 Road Salt Symposium.


They're learning how much salt is too much.

"We're constantly battling on whether or not we're putting down too much salt or not enough salt," said Brent Weldon, a foreman with Hennepin County Public Works.

He brought five employees along to the symposium to learn about new solutions to salt that he hopes are right around the corner.

"There should be no trace of salt left after the melting has occurred," said Brooke Asleson, the Water Pollution Prevention Coordinator with the MPCA. "It should just be slightly wet pavement."

She said these days road salt takes up 100 percent of her job.

Fifty metro lakes, streams and wetlands contain too much chloride and exceed state standards.

Communities across Minnesota have cut back on salt usage in the last few years, exploring other options like using treated salt in low temperatures instead of layering on white road salt that won't work.

However, in temperatures like those this winter, it can take up to two days for even that special salt to melt roads.

RELATED: Turning to Beet Juice and Beer to Address Road Salt Danger

"The salt no longer is on the road and it ends up in the ditch," Welson said. "So 48 hours later, we're melting ditches and not roadways."

"That's our biggest challenge ... the public's perception and expectation," Asleson added.

So when the next storm blows through, the word is try not to get too salty.

RELATED: Salt, the Solution to Winter's Dangers, Threatens US Waters

"We're hoping that somebody comes up with some miracle that makes our jobs a lot easier, but until then we're going to keep doing the best job we can," Weldon said.

Hennepin County Public Works employees said this has been such a cold winter, there's only enough treated road salt to last through one more round of storms.

After that, it's on to the salt that doesn't work so well in the cold.


Katherine Johnson

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