WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) — Usually when it snows or when there's plenty of ice out, people salt their driveways or sidewalks, for example, to prevent falls.
However, once melting starts, excess amounts of salt can become part of the runoff that makes its way into storm drains.
From there salt gets into the ecosystem through the ground, leading to ground water infiltration. The runoff impacts soil composition, plant growth and other visible vegetation, and weakens the bricks and stones that make up homes, garages, bridges, and roads.
"You can see sometimes grass that is dying, or trees that are browning, needles are brown, and in the city we try to plant trees that are salt tolerant," TJ Niksich with Wausau Public Works (WPW) said.
Also, through runoff salt can travel into rivers, streams, and wetlands, endangering aquatic life and freshwater resources.
According to WPW, it only takes a teaspoon of salt to permanently pollute five gallons of water.
Throughout Wisconsin Salt Awareness Week from Jan. 11-15, several initiatives to reduce excess salt usage have been highlighted each day. One in particular is the hashtag #WISweeptheSalt.
After salt has served its purpose, Wausau Public Works encourages residents to sweep it up, store it, then reuse it the next time it's needed. This not only helps save money, but also limits the amount of salt that can find its way into the drains.
Ensuring it's properly stored should be a priority after it's swept for reuse.
"If you have less than a cup full you can probably just add it back to the bag or wherever you store it," Niksich said. "If there are large amounts leftover, I would suggest spreading it out to let it dry for a couple hours so that way it doesn't turn into large chunks of salt."
To learn more about eco-friendly initiatives and how to get involved with the campaign, click here.