Road Salt

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Road salt is putting North America’s lakes at risk

In the 1940s, Americans found a new way to love salt. Not simply for sprinkling on food — we'd acquired a taste for the mineral long before that — but for spreading on roads and sidewalks. Salt became a go-to method to de-ice frozen pavement.

North America's freshwater lakes are getting saltier

North America's freshwater lakes are getting saltier due to development and exposure to road salt. A study of 371 lakes published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports that many Midwestern and Northeastern lakes are experiencing increasing chloride trends, with some 44% of lakes sampled in these regions undergoing long-term salinization.

The serious downsides of road salt

Storm Jonas made it clear how important road salt is for keeping the streets and sidewalks of New York City clear of snow and ice. The Department of Sanitation had more than 300,000 tons of it on hand to deal with Jonas, more than the weight of three aircraft carriers.

Road salt

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Snow season is here. The chances are good you'll find yourself behind a truck spreading salt on the roads in an attempt to deice them. You may even try a little salt on your own front porch. Annually we spread about 20 million tons of road salt in the U.S., and we've been doing it since the late 1930s.

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Road Salt

Increasing salt in our streams has been a concern at the Cary Institute for many years. Even in the relatively undeveloped watershed of the East Branch of Wappinger Creek, the salt levels have increased since 1985 when sampling began. 

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