Plymouth Works to Reduce Road Salt Usage
During the winter, trucks in Plymouth stand loaded with salt and ready to go.
City trucks cover hundreds of miles of roads before, during and after a snowfall. The city must balance public safety and the need for clear roads with water quality. Since 2010, the city has been working to reduce salt use so it doesn’t pollute waterways.
“We’ve had about a 56 percent reduction in the amount of tonnage we’ve put on the streets,” says Ben Scharenbroich, senior engineering technician for the city of Plymouth. “We plow the streets a lot more now than we have in the past and then we will salt after that. Before the storm, we will pretreat to help not have as much pack-down on the roads so it is easier to plow.”
The city has enacted several practices that reduce salt use. Trucks use GPS to track and keep record of salt use. Instead of using straight salt, the city invested in a brine maker so they can quickly make thousands of gallons of brine they need to get through a snowstorm. Salt is stored in covered, contained areas to prevent runoff. Staff attend training to learn more. Rather than crews using more salt, they often make more passes to keep roads clear.
“They are sweeping up excess salt as well as storing it properly,” says Telly Mamayek, director of communications and education for the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District. “There’s many, many things they are doing.”
Plymouth will be receiving an award from the Freshwater Society for their reduction of salt at an upcoming Road Salt Symposium on Feb. 8. Cities have a very important role in keeping salt out of waterways.
“Cities have an immense responsibility at applying proper amounts of salt because of all of the roadways they are responsible for,” says Mamayek. “When you are talking about the amount of pavement they have to deal with, [cities] can make a huge impact at protecting our waters from road salt.”
Homeowners aren’t off the hook either. Homeowners can work to reduce the amount of salt on sidewalks and driveways and lower the amount of salt that gets into lakes, rivers and streams. Guidelines for homeowners say a recommended use is 12 oz. or a coffee cup amount of salt is needed to treat a 250 square foot space.