New program encourages city, businesses to reduce salt use

Goal is to protect environment, save money
New program encourages city, businesses to reduce salt use
Road salt affects lakes and drinking water

A new program spearheaded by the city of Madison is encouraging city workers as well as private salt application businesses to reduce salt use and clean up the environment.

It’s called the Voluntary Road Salt Applicator Certification Program, and it’s the first of its kind in Wisconsin.

Businesses and workers are trained on new methods of salt dispersal and reduction to earn the certification. The first class was held Friday.

“We’re at the very beginning of this process,” city enginee Phil Gaebler said.

The hope is to help clean up Dane County rivers and lakes while also saving salt application businesses money by not using unnecessary amounts of salt.

“We have places where you have (waterways) that have high enough chloride levels at certain times, and/or a storm sewer pipe that discharges into a lake, that it could have chloride level that would be high enough to sterlize fish eggs,” Gaebler said.

David Arnn, with Simply Snow & Lawn, was one of the attendees from private companies. He said he learned plenty of new tips to reduce his company’s salt output and is looking forward to saving money.

“The sheer volume of product and salt product used per year, per snow event, can be dramatically lowered,” Arnn said. “If we can save money as a small local family business, we definitely will do that.”

Gaebler said some techniques presented in the class included using brines instead of straight salt before a storm. The mix of salt and water allows salt to be spread over a wider distance in a more efficent way.

Gaebler also said putting more effort into snow removal helps prevent ice from forming on roads. He said most homeowners shouldn’t even have to use salt for most snowstorms; they can just clear their driveways or sidewalks with a shovel or a broom.

“I’m hoping that as we have more people certified in the program and educated in the appropriate application of de-icers that we’ll start to see the trend change in the chloride levels in our lakes,” Gaebler said “We will see the chloride levels start to level off and eventually decrease.”