Sue Nissen, one of the founding members of the citizen group StopOverSalting (SOS) in Minnesota, is supporting limited liability legislation that will reduce over-salting of roads and sidewalks. The proposed legislation, which is modeled on similar laws passed in New Hampshire and Illinois, would provide liability exemption for contractors who attend the the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA)’s winter salt training, get certified, and document their practices.
After discovering that the chloride (salt) levels in local rivers and streams was climbing and destroying the fish populations, the state implemented a number of programs to educate workers on salt usage in de-icing. A winter maintenance training course was created for snow-plow drivers that gave the crews practical advice on how to reduce salt use without compromising public safety. Courses were also designed for correct salt application on sidewalks and parking lots.
Unfortunately, private contractors tend to over-apply salt on parking lots and sidewalks, often because they are afraid of “slip-and-fall” lawsuits. SOS hopes to mitigate this problem with the limited liability legislation.
“This salt becomes pollution that is permanent”, says Nissen. “There is no feasible way to remove chloride once it dissolves in water. Combine that with the damage salt does to the environment, future drinking water supplies, and infrastructure — the cost of chloride pollution is enormous. Drive around many parking lots and you’ll be sick to your stomach. With the next rainfall or snow melt, everything from the parking lot will be in lakes and rivers, even in groundwater. We need a culture change in Minnesota sooner rather than later because there are no do-overs on this topic. Once the chloride is dissolved in water, it’s there forever.”