Road Salt May be Hurting the Chesapeake Bay
Updated: Saturday, February 15 2014, 08:29 AM EST
Crews have been treating roads with more than the usual amount of salt during this extra snowy winter.
Many people are concerned over the effect it is having on their cars but researchers are more concerned by the impact of it in our water.
The salt that is used to treat snowy roads remain on the surface so when it rains or when the snow melts, it runs into storm drains and ultimately into Maryland waterways.
Environmentalists are always measuring contaminants in the Chesapeake Bay. A couple of years ago, researchers with the University of Maryland found elevated levels of chloride after a particularly rough winter, which is the main ingredient of road salt.
Dr. Beth McGee notes, "Chloride is toxic to aquatic organisms and so they're worried that the levels they're seeing could impact local streams."
So far this season, the State Highway Administration (SHA) has dumped about 400-thousand tons of salt on Maryland roads. They only use what is necessary but this unusually icy winter has required much more.
"We value the Chesapeake Bay. We want to reduce as much salt as we can, but the reality is we need to keep the roads from icing up," said Valerie Burnette Edgar of the SHA.
Scientists agree that public safety is important but also hope to find more ways to reduce runoff. They are even researching alternative ingredients but they can be as much as ten-times more expensive.
The SHA "has experimented throughout the years and piloted use of different products and we're always open to trying different products. The reality is the tried and true salt is the best way to keep the roads safe," said Edgar.
Salt water sea life such as crabs in the Bay can generally adjust to chloride but the freshwater streams are most endangered by it.