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Road Salt: Good For Icy Roads, Bad For Nearby Waterways

A new study shows that even a small amount of development around a lake can put the body of water at risk of salinization.
Wilson Ring
Associated Press
A new study shows that even a small amount of development around a lake can put the body of water at risk of salinization.

Here in the north country, we spread a lot of salt on our roadways to melt the ice that causes hazardous winter driving conditions. But that salt has to go somewhere.  Flora Krivak-Tetley, a PhD student in Biology at Dartmouth College, is part of a group of researchers with the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network that has been taking a look at how salt is affecting waterbodies from Maine to the Midwest.

She shared the findings with Vermont Edition.

Krivak-Tetley explains that in areas that get more snow, “road density or the impervious surface around the lake was the main risk factor for salinization. And this surprised us actually. As little as one percent of impervious surface puts a lake at risk for salinization.”

So even lakes that have minimal development in the buffer area around the water are potentially at risk, she says. Increased salt levels can lead to a decline in the health of the lake or pond.

Krivak-Tetley acknowledges that road salt isn't going away. But she hopes the findings will help inform decisions that municipalities and homeowners make in the future about when and how much salt to add to driveways, parking lots and roads.

Ric was a producer for Vermont Edition and host of the VPR Cafe.
Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
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