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Groups monitoring salt levels in Madison lakes

MADISON (WKOW) — The Yahara chain of lakes has been monitored for salt content regularly since the 1940s.

The last 70 years has shown that the salt content has risen considerably.

“The most intimate problem is that we’re increasing the salinity in the drinking water,” Hilary Dugan, a lake scientist at UW Madison, said. “That’s going to have human health impacts at a certain point.”

Dugan gave a talk with the Clean Lakes Alliance on Wednesday for people wanting to learn more about salt in the area. She said say’s there’s no real good alternative for salt use because anything else people could use to melt snow comes with it’s own set of environmental concerns.

However city officials say there’s no need to use all that much.

“Most storms I don’t put down any salt because I just go through with my push broom and I can get down to bare pavement without using any de-icer at all,” Phil Gaebler, a water expert with Madison City Engineering said.

The recommended standard is a coffee cup’s worth of salt for a 20 foot driveway, and only enough to loosen any ice layer.

The city says you should only salt once you’ve already done all the shoveling that you can.

We tried it out at WKOW Studios, with the recommended amount. After about an hour, we were able to remove the ice on our sidewalk test area.

With the large amount of salt that the city uses, it may seem like any salt people use, shouldn’t make a difference. Gaebler says they use the same amount they recommend around a larger area.

“From the city’s perspective, we’re trying to lead by example and nearly everyone that spreads salt for the city has gone through our certification program,” Gaebler said. “That program is also available to private applicators.”

More details on that program can be found here on the Wisconsin Salt Wise website.

Gaebler said you can find everything you need to learn about salt and it’s effect there as well.

Francisco Almenara

Reporter, WKOW

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