DETROIT LAKES — As sidewalks continue to get icier throughout the winter months, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in Detroit Lakes is now urging people to be sparing when it comes to de-icing salt.

Dan Olson, an information officer with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said the amount of salt in Minnesota lakes and rivers is becoming a problem.

"Chloride levels in our lakes and streams are going up," Olson said. "A majority of people aren't really aware just how much salt they should be using."

The excess salt that's used on sidewalks and driveways eventually runs into the streets and then into lakes and rivers.

Olson says the less salt used, the better.

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"A 12-ounce mug holds about a pound of de-icing salt," Olson said. "And that one mug full of salt should be enough to do about 10 sidewalk squares ... or about a 20-foot driveway."

Fifty Minnesota lakes and streams have chloride levels too high to meet the standard in order to protect fish and other aquatic life.

Right now, the majority of the issues are within the Twin Cities because of the high amounts of urban run-off. However, some rivers and lakes in Kittson County and Alexandria are being reported as "impaired," which means there are high levels of salt.

Here are some tips from Clean Water MN to reduce the amount of chloride being used:

  • Shovel — Clear walkways before snow turns to ice and before you apply salt.
  • Select — Salt doesn't melt ice if the pavement is below 15 degrees, so use sand when it's too cold.
  • Scatter — Use salt only where it's critical and leave plenty of space between granules.
  • Sweep — Clean up leftover salt to save and reuse for later.

Olson also says people should make sure their water softeners are updated.

Many old softeners are "time-generated," which means they'll automatically run once a week. The newer softeners will regenerate based off how much water has been used.