The Iceman Cometh—Sidewalk Salt Pollutes Our Lakes and Streams

Images and story courtesy Clean Water Minnesota.

Uptown Wedge resident Joe Knaeble is concerned with a problem that is mostly invisible: increasing levels of salt in groundwater due to its overuse as a deicer. Perhaps less invisible is the sidewalk salt that remains after an over-zealous application of the product to urban sidewalks and roadways.

A bucket filled with salt.
Joe Knaeble sweeps up excess salt to protect nearby waterbodies. (Courtesy Clean Water Minnesota)

“If you see salt, it was overdone,” he says.

Most of this problem comes from an American obsession with efficiency. “We are expected to get to work on time, despite the weather,” he notes.

Knaeble’s concern with the overuse of salt has led him to sweep more than 270 pounds of excess deicing chemicals from his neighborhood over the past two winters. With the support of neighborhood volunteers, they are trying to prevent metro area bodies of water from becoming as salty as the sea — a problem that is largely irreversible.

To this seemingly thankless task, Knaeble brings a demeanor that reflects his background as a former farmer and carpenter: calm, practical, and informed.

“I wouldn’t say I’m an environmentalist. I’m a person who realizes we have to take care of the environment.”

Read the full story at cleanwatermn.org.

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