MPCA outlines statewide plan to reduce salt use, protect lakes and streams

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is worried about the buildup of salt in the state’s lakes and streams - and one of the biggest sources of salt is something you might not even have thought of. 

In the Twin Cities metro, many lakes and streams already have too much chloride in them—levels so high they are potentially toxic aquatic life. However, this is not the case in much of the rest of Minnesota. 

Fortunately, the MPCA has a plan to prevent additional impact. 

“Once [chloride] it’s in the water it’s there forever,” Katrina Kessler, MPCA assistant commissioner for water, said. 

Sodium chloride is the chemical we rely on to melt ice in the winter. But, excess chloride does not just end in up in Minnesota’s water resources by way of salt trucks. The MPCA said chloride could be entering the state’s lakes and streams through your home’s water softener.

“When the water goes through their house and ultimately to the waste water treatment plant, that salt is and chloride is not removed and discharged untreated and that, too, can impact aquatic life,” Kessler said.” 

Researchers at the University of Minnesota add that every year 136,000 tons of chloride passes through wastewater treatment plants—mostly from residential commercial water softeners. 

Kessler said other sources include nitrogen fertilizer, dust suppressant fertilizer put on unpaved roads to minimize the amount of dust.

The MPCA has outlined a statewide chloride management plan to reduce salt use in order to protect environment, and to keep our money above water too. 

“Too much road salt can negatively impact infrastructure, storm drains, cars, bridges,” Kessler said. “They corrode faster and that costs overall billions of dollars to replace and that money could be used other places.” 

To reduce chloride impact, make sure you adjust your water softener settings to cycle through the least amount of salt pellets necessary.

The MPCA is holding several public hearings to get feedback on the plan. 

  • Twin Cities — Thursday, May 30, 8:30 a.m. – noon, Dakota Lodge, 1200 Stassen Lane, West St. Paul, MN 55118 
  • Duluth —Wednesday, June 12, 8:30 a.m. – noon, Griggs Center, Kirby Student Center, 1120 Kirby Dr., Duluth, MN 55812 
  • St. Cloud/Alexandria — Wednesday, June 19, 8:30 a.m. – noon, Douglas County Public Works Department, 526 Willow Dr., Alexandria, MN 56308