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May 19

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Hold the Salt, Please

Salting the roads to keep us safe during winter has long-lasting impacts on the environment. Listen up:

salt

Plow down to the plow-truck. (US EPA)

As winter approaches, we’ll soon see salt-spreading plow trucks on the roads. And Todd Walter, director of the New York State Water Resources Institute, says salt that is washed off the roads stays in the soil for months.

“It gets back down to background levels again sometimes as late as October, so we’re really keeping the system juiced up for a long time,” he explains.

Rain washes salt out of the soil and into streams, rivers, and lakes where it harms crustaceans, amphibians, such as salamanders and frogs, fish, plants, and more. There’s even some concern that road salt might aid the spread of salt-tolerant invasive species.

But there’s a lot highway departments can do, like adding sand to the mixture to reduce the amount of salt used and still keep us safe.

So when winter comes, let’s think like summer and keep the salt around our rims and the sand between our toes.

Get schooled:

The fine print:

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.currentcast.org/stormwater-management/stream-salinity-and-road-salt/