Have you ever stopped to think about what happens to the tons and tons of salt that goes down on our roads, parking lots, and sidewalks each winter? Most of it ends up in our lakes, streams, and wetlands, which in turn puts a significant strain on the aquatic health of these water bodies. Elk River Public Works continues to make great strides toward a more environmentally-friendly snow and ice removal system, while keeping roadways as safe as possible. One example of this is Elk River’s pre-treatment operation, which utilizes a 23.3 percent sodium chloride brine solution spread throughout the city’s roadways prior to forecasted inclement weather. This pre-treatment allows for melting to begin as soon as precipitation meets the roadway, minimizing the amount of solid road salt necessary, while also allowing for more efficient clearing during and after a weather event. Pre-treatment (and other best practices) have resulted in a 10 percent reduction in salt use, and as new technology and equipment emerge the city hopes to bring that reduction to 20 percent in the next five years.
Also, all Public Works staff members hold a Level 1 Road Salt Certification from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, which provides useful information to improve operator effectiveness and for reducing chloride pollution while keeping roads, parking lots, and sidewalks safe. The city itself holds a Level 2 Road Salt Certification, where best practices are created, assessed, and proof of reduced salt consumption is required to remain certified.