Salting roads impacts freshwater supply

Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 6:11 AM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - As the snow continues to come down city residents and trucks are putting salt down on hard surfaces. Researchers from the University of Toledo are saying that may be doing more harm than good.

“It is critically important to keep the road safe, but once it washes off of the roads, it washes into our streams, our wetlands, and our lakes. What happens is it increases the salinity of the freshwater ecosystems and a lot of times we draw our water supply from those ecosystems,” says Dr. William Hintz, a professor of ecology at the University of Toledo.

Hintz says while he understands why salt is used, people need to weigh the risk and the reward.

“You see reductions in growth, and in the abundance of things like fish and plankton in the water. And then for humans on the medical side of things, they’re a lot of people that live with hypertension, or certain kidney diseases,” says Dr. Hintz.

Researchers at the University of Toledo are working with Partners for Clean Streams, Toledo Metropolitan Council of Governments, and the Ohio EPA to get the word out about best practices and the impact of salt pollution. Dr. Hintz says there are things everyone can do like slowing down on the roads and staying home if possible.

“The fewer people traveling, which allows transportation agencies to clear the roads without using as much salt. So it’s our demand that causes us to apply so much salt,” says Dr. Hintz.

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