Salted roads cause salty rivers

Salting icy roads creates toxic conditions for aquatic life

Much of the approximately 35 billion pounds of salt spread annually on U.S. roads in the wintertime to help prevent traffic accidents ends up in waterways, a new U.S. Geological Survey study shows.

Rivers in the nation’s northeast are becoming saltier due to sodium chloride (salt) runoff from roads, a recent Environmental Health News story noted. And the salt in the rivers “remains toxic not just in winter, but throughout two-thirds of the year,” the article said, referring to the study.

Salt levels in late winter and early spring in Wisconsin’s Menomonee and Kinnickinnic rivers, for example, are 10 to 15 times higher “than a federal level set to protect fish, amphibians and tiny crustaceans.”

Seven rivers in the Midwest have average salt levels approaching or exceeding the guideline set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for adequate protection of aquatic life.