War on winter road grit

By Dane Hanson It has felt like spring time the past few weeks in Duluth, but winter isn’t quite over yet for the Piedmont community. Duluth residents have been asked to pick up their winter grit that is found on their driveways, sidewalks, and streets.  With rain fall on its way, picking up the grit becomes very important in keeping Duluth’s water system clean.

For the past six years the City of Duluth has been setting up collection sites for citizens to drop off their winter grit found around their homes. Winter grit is the sand that the city uses on the roads during the winter months.

The Piedmont community has always taken an active approach to the collection program and has always had a lot of grit be collected by the city workers at their drop off site at the Piedmont community center.

“We use to have about fifteen collection sites but some of those sites weren’t producing enough winter grit so we reduced the number to seven sites and the Piedmont area is one of them because we always see a good turnout from that part of the community,” said program coordinator Chris Kleist.

The city asks residents to sweep the winter grit and take it to collection sites. Otherwise, rain washes the grit into sewage systems and ultimately into Lake Superior.

The Piedmont community members know the importance of the collection of winter grit and the potential harmful effects it can have.

“It might seem stupid to sweep up all these small particles of sand but in reality these small particles can cause unwanted problems for the sewage system in Duluth,” said Piedmont resident Peter Thorston.

“I don’t think people realize that every little thing that is found on our sidewalks, driveways, and streets whether it is winter grit, grass clippings, or even dog poop can be swept away by the rain water and runs right into Lake Superior,” Kleist explained.

Between the months of March through August in Duluth, it is estimated that it rains 69 days with the average precipitation being about three inches according to climate-zone.com.

“It’s scary to think that when it rains during the spring and summer months we potentially have some nasty stuff flowing into Lake Superior. Just shows the importance of the winter grit collection program,” Thorston said.

Kleist estimates that the program averages about two full dump trucks full of winter grit collected each year. “Overall I think we have had a good response to the program from community members and we’re in our sixth year so we must be doing something right,” Kleist said.

Kleist finds two main benefits of the program for the Piedmont area and other communities in Duluth. He expressed the main benefit being that by having community members sweep their driveways, sidewalks, and streets they are eliminating unwanted materials going into Lake Superior.

It also teaches residents the impact of their actions and the interconnectedness of the ecosystem. “It allows citizens to think about how bad littering can be to themselves, and the community members that surround them,” Kleist said.

Citizens can drop off their winter grit at seven different collection sites. To find a collection site in your area, you can visit www.duluthnewstribune.com.

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