How much salt is the right amount?

MADISON (WKOW) — It’s that time of year again when we start to buy the bags or buckets of salt. Usually, you may see neighbors spreading it out on their sidewalks and driveways by the handfuls. But you may be skeptical when you find out how much you’re actually supposed to use.

“Salt is very corrosive. It causes damage to your car, to your sidewalk, to bridges,” said Phil Gaebler, a water resources engineer with the City of Madison.

Gaebler said all people need to use is a cup of salt for 10 panels of sidewalk.

First, Gaebler urges people to shovel the snow off the concrete or surface, then sweep the remaining snow off.

Then, he advises you to spread the salt lightly, creating a thin layer.

“We have time, but it takes a lot to change this problem. We are very dependent on salt and being judicious about it is really our only path forward,” Gaebler said.

The salt we use ultimately ends up in our lakes by running off through the city’s drainage system.

“We can have a negative impact on the wildlife in our lakes. And, eventually we may be able to taste this water,” said Gaebler and he eluded to the fact that the salt we use in the winter also ends up in the wells where we get our drinking water from.

“In 20 years we may have wells where you can taste the salt,” said Gaebler.

Another issue for the lakes are the leaves that are currently all over the ground and streets.

Street crews with the City of Madison are working 10-hour days, trying to gather up as much as they can before winter really sets in.

They will continue making their rounds through neighborhoods and city streets until the first big snowfall that covers all the leaves.

The degrading leaves that remain in the streets could lead to high phosphorus levels in the lakes due to runoff. It’s the perfect recipe for blue-green algae blooms in the summer.

Austin Haskins

Austin Haskins

Meteorologist/Web Producer
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