Hazards Of Road Salt Begin To Get Attention

plowtrucks lkwd TLSWhen it’s icy or it snows, officials drop tons of salt and other de-icers on roads in Monmouth and Ocean counties to help make them safer. But what’s the environmental impact of all the salt that’s been deployed this winter, which has featured three major snowstorms so far? Officials aren’t sure but recommend limiting use of rock salt and other products. “There is an impact of salt on water quality,” said Barry Chalofsky, chief of the Bureau of Nonpoint Pollution Control in the state Department of Environmental¬†Protection. “We don’t know the degree of the impact.”

However, a DEP water quality report released last year said “road salting and improper salt storage are major contributors” to pollution from dissolved solids and “need to be better addressed by the department’s water quality management programs.”

With record-setting snowfall in New Jersey this winter and more storms possibly on the horizon, hundreds of trucks have been out spreading rock salt and alternatives onto highways and roads. But some officials, including those in Monmouth County, are using or considering products with less environmental impact.

“With all the snow we’ve had and having to apply more salt, it cannot have a beneficial effect on water quality,” said Turner Shell, watershed/stormwater coordinator with the Monmouth County Planning Board.

A 2003 government-funded report that ranked New Jersey environmental problems called road salt a low ecological and socioeconomic risk.

But salt-contaminated runoff from streets and highways can damage nearby trees and shrubs and affect aquatic ecosystems when it reaches streams and other surface waters, according to the report.

Drinking water in New Jersey has become contaminated by salt in isolated cases, the report said. Road salt also damages road surfaces, bridges, vehicles and electrical fixtures.

A more recent analysis of 36 freshwater stream sampling sites “indicates declining conditions for total dissolved solids” in New Jersey, according to a DEP report released last year. Read full article in APP

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