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An Echo Press Editorial: A little effort, big payoff for lakes

By the Echo Press Editorial Board

It takes only a little effort to do things that can make a big difference in improving the environment.

The newspaper recently received two news releases that prove that point.

The first one is from the city of Alexandria and addresses salt pollution. The city pointed out that

Minnesota lakes and streams are becoming saltier each year, threatening freshwater fish and other aquatic life.

Those who apply salt (or chlorides) on sidewalks and driveways to de-ice during winter storms is similar to dumping salt straight into a waterbody. It only takes one teaspoon of salt to pollute five gallons of water, the city said. When salt is added to water, it quickly dissolves and becomes difficult and costly to remove.

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With that, prevention is the only feasible way to protect our clean water. The city offered these simple tips to help minimize salt use:

  • Remove snow first. Never apply salt to un-shoveled snow as it is ineffective. The more snow and ice removed manually, the less salt will be needed for effective use, if at all.

  • Remove snow early. After snow has been compacted it is harder to remove and will likely turn to ice.

  • Check the temperature. Most salts stop working at 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Magnesium chloride and calcium chloride work on colder days, but most de-icers do not work below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. If too cold for a de-icer to work, sand should be applied for traction instead.

  • Be patient. Salt takes time to work.

  • Apply salt sparingly. Use less than 4 pounds of salt per 1,000 square feet, or 3 inches between salt crystals. Consider purchasing a hand-held spreader to help with a consistent application.

  • Sweep. Sand or salt on dry pavement is not needed and should be swept up before it is washed away.

  • Store appropriately. Store salt and other deicing materials indoors or in a covered location with an impervious surface below.

  • Attend a training session. To learn more on smart salting techniques, sign up for a free class through the MPCA website: https://www.pca.state.mn.us/water/smart-salting-training

  • Hire a certified company. If unable to remove snow yourself, use a certified company listed on the MPCA website: https://www.pca.state.mn.us/water/hire-certified-applicator

The other news release came from Kevin Brown, a conservation technician for the Todd County Soil and Water Conservation District. He provided helpful information about preventing shoreland erosion.
Brown pointed out that Minnesota has more shoreline than Hawaii, California and Florida combined.

“With that amount of shoreline, it is not a shocker that we are dealing with shoreland erosion issues,” Brown said. “Whether it is recreational lakes caused by wave action from your slalom skiing days or our lush green yards going down to the waters edge. We are all responsible for taking care of these precious resources.”

Most properties have a gradual slope towards the lake. Brown’s advice for preventing erosion: Leave it alone.

“By leaving the natural shoreland undisturbed you are allowing native vegetation to naturally armor the shoreland preventing erosion from occurring,” Brown said. “You could increase that armor by planting woody plants to help increase root mass and depth. This would be a natural filter strip that causes the soil to bind together and reduce soil loss that you normally see caused by waves and surface runoff.”

Related Topics: ENVIRONMENT
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