Madison updates ordinance on salt use, including fines for using too much

MADISON, Wis. — The City of Madison is rolling out new limits on how much salt residents can use to clear ice and snow from their sidewalks — including possible fines for using too much.

City officials say the change is designed to keep sidewalks safe while also reducing the amount of salt that finds its way into the community’s waterways, adding that using too much salt creates its own accessibility problems for people with disabilities who may have trouble using wheelchairs or walkers on sidewalks with large amounts of salt.

“We rely on the underground water and all the filtrations and things like that, you know, it can be affected too,” said JoseMaria Donoso, housing inspection supervisor with the city’s Building Inspection Division, “and that is maybe more important because it’s the water that we drink every single day.”

Under the new rules, property owners can only use enough salt or chemical melting agents to remove the snow and ice — meaning excess salt or melting agents can’t be left behind and has to be removed from the sidewalk once the snow and ice are gone.

“This is the discretion of the inspector,” Donoso said. “Every single property is different, every situation is different. We understand that not all of the sidewalks are totally flat, we have hills here and there so we will evaluate every single condition.”

According to Donoso, you have 15 days to appeal a notice or citation.

“Probably the first thing that they need to do is call the inspector that was assigned to the case and talk about it and see what they can do to remediate and what (is) the condition that they saw when they were in the property,” he explained.

Donoso said sand is not counted, just salt. The city provides sand for free at 14 locations citywide.

Property owners still need to have snow and ice removed from the sidewalk next to their property removed by noon the day after the snow or ice was left on the sidewalk. Those who own corner lots also still need to remove all snow and ice from the sidewalks of both streets, including the portion bordering the crosswalk and the curb ramp.

If you don’t shovel or clear the ice, the city will fine you $124 for a first offense and $187 for a second offense. However, if you use too much salt, you will now face a possible fine of up to $50 for a first offense and up to $100 for each subsequent offense. In both cases, city officials say they will try education before beginning fines.

You can see the full ordinance here and embedded below.

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