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MPCA Road Salt Education Program

14th Annual Road Salt Symposium!

Coming February 2015

For information on the 13th Annual Road Salt Symposium, visit the Freshwater Society's Road Salt Symposium Web page.

About Road Salt

As testing is conducted for chlorides, watersheds are being identified for chloride impairments. Through education and outreach, applicators of road salt can learn best practices and significantly reduce their use while maintaining road safety.

An example of a suburban watershed with chloride impairment is The Shingle Creek Watershed. Based on the analysis from Shingle Creek Watershed chloride TMDL, roughly 7.5 percent of the road salt load is coming from private applicators. These applicators generally clear parking lots, walkways and access roadways. This problem is expected to grow, as further testing and analysis shows more impaired watersheds.

Funding for the Road Salt Training events in Minnesota are made possible through a 319 education grant and partnerships with local watersheds and government organizations.


Photo of snow removal and road salt applicationIn February 2005 a $25,000 Pollution Prevention (P2) grant was awarded to Fortin Consulting of Minneapolis. The purpose of this grant was to develop and test an education outreach program to local government and private applicators of road salt. The key objectives of the outreach were to:

  • develop best management practices (BMPs) for application of road salt;
  • develop a training program and conduct three pilot training sessions;
  • follow-up those trained to learn what changes occurred as a result of using best management practices, as summarized in the following report:

    The target of this training is private applicators. However, other interested parties and local government officials are also being trained. In this way local officials will be knowledgeable about the training that is going on in their city, can learn the newest techniques, and be in a position to continue training in their city. Also, cities have the opportunity at these training sessions to address the audience and cover any other environmental concerns affecting lakes and streams.

    Interim Project Results

    • As the BMPs and training materials were developed for this project, no similar training was found. The BMPs and training focused on smaller applicators may be the first of its type in the nation.
    • It was identified early on in the development of the training that a key the success of the training was going to be getting the target applicators to the 4-hr training. Partners (local governments and watershed representatives) in the project helped identify and solicit target applicators. Partners also offered free lunches as an incentive.
    • The first training in Minnetonka had about 25 in attendance. This was considered a good turn out for a pilot training session. The second training in North St Paul had a handful in attendance which was very poor. The difference between the two at this point is speculated to be the fact that it was held on a 70 degree day in mid-October, so many of the target applicators were out completing pre-winter landscaping maintenance.
    • The training gives an excellent overview of the basic do's and don'ts of de-icing. The training then overviews BMPs, after which attendees learn how to determine when and how much deicing material to apply.
    • During the calculation training segment, the attendees determine how much in a typical application they apply now, and then they calculate how much how much they should be using according to what they just learned. The results were astounding. The lowest reduction in optimal road salt usage was around 75%. (In one example a large metro shopping center was showed a reduction of 8500 lb/application of a treated road salt product - or approximately an 80% reduction).
    • Level 1 Training CertificateThe training ends up with the attendees taking a voluntary test. The test includes a voluntarily commitment to apply the BMPs.
    • Finally, a certification was given to qualified individuals. This Level I training certification is sent out to training participants agreeing to implement best management practices. In the training evaluations, the idea of this voluntary certification was noted by many attendees as something they considered very important.

    Pollution Prevention (P2) Case Study from Road Salt Training

    De-icing chemicals applied to roadways can impair water quality and habitat, and are costly for local governments to purchase and to apply. Fortin Consulting and the Minnesota Local Technical Assistance Program provided a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency-sponsored winter maintenance training course for snowplow drivers in Dakota County Minnesota in November 2008. The goal was to improve operator effectiveness, and to reduce the amount of chemicals entering nearby water bodies. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the University of Minnesota's Water Resources Center (WRC) partnered to evaluate the training through a KAP (knowledge, attitudes and practices) study. Beforehand a baseline was established. The study was repeated after two winter maintenance seasons and the results were compared. Fourteen months post-training, KAP results documented measureable improvements in driver knowledge, attitudes and practices related to specific application activities.

    The study confirmed that the winter maintenance training fostered many changes. After Dakota County employees attended winter maintenance (road salt) training reductions in the use of chlorides were documented. For the 2008/2009 season the county used 14,175 tons of salt for thirty-five snow events, averaging 405 tons per event. For the 2009/2010 season the county used 9,585 tons of salt for twenty-seven events, averaging 355 tons per event. The correlates to about 40 million gallons of freshwater protected from chloride contamination per snow event.[1]  County staff attributed the decrease in salt from 405 to 355 tons to the use of computerized spreaders, the use of magnesium chloride, and to the winter maintenance training provided by Fortin Consulting in partnership with the MPCA. For detailed information concerning the P2 results of this study please refer to the following report:

    List of Individuals Certified

    A voluntary certification was given to individuals who:

    1. Attended Voluntary Training;
    2. Completed and Passed the Associated Test; and
    3. Agreed to Voluntarily Apply Best Management Practices to Reduce Chloride Impacts

    The list of individuals given this voluntary certification to date is contained in the following document:

    Please note: Individuals Certified in Minnesota will have to re-certify once every five years.

    Training Schedule

    Because of the initial success of the pilot project, Fortin Consulting has received a 319 grant to conduct additional training sessions in Minnesota. The following training schedule is changed periodically as training events are completed/added.

    Maintenance Manual and In-Truck Clip Board

    Winter Parking Lot and Sidewalk Maintenance Manual - CoverIn the Spring of 2006, additional P2 funds were provided to develop written materials to be used by applicators. Under this approach, a technical advisory group was formed to provide input into a winter maintenance manual. It was originally thought the manual would be compact in an effort to encourage applicators to have it available in their vehicle. After a number of meetings with the technical advisory group it was decided to split off key charts and information critical to have in a vehicle before, during and after winter storm events. This created a stand alone manual and two pages of charts/critical information (clip board pages).

    • PDF Document Winter Parking Lot and Sidewalk Maintenance Manual (p-tr1-10) (October 2010) - this manual will be used and handed out as a reference document during the training sessions. A copy of the manual will be given to each training participant as a take home reference document.
    • PDF Document Clip Board Pages  (p-tr1-20) (October 2010) - for applicators attending training will be given a clip board containing critical information. The hope is that this clip board will be a useful tool for applicators to keep in there vehicles during storm events.

    Additional Winter Maintenance Resources

    Training Video — Winter Maintenance for Homeowners (15 Minutes)


    Training Video — Winter Maintenance Training for Small Sites

    Special thanks to the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization, the University of Minnesota, and Fortin Consulting for producing this video.


    Sample Snow Policies

    The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Salt Management Plan

    Future Steps

    • Expand existing training and voluntary certification nationally and internationally to cold weather climate areas.
    • Modify training to create a training and voluntary certification programs for road maintenance activities.
    • Adapt training to landscaping best management practices to reduce chemical loading on lawn and landscape areas (many of the same individuals/companies providing winter maintenance services, also provide warm weather lawn and landscape services).

    Contact information

    Andrew Ronchak

    Related Links

    Last modified on February 26, 2014 12:17