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Vicky Kelly manages the Cary Institute's Environmental Monitoring Program, which includes monitoring climate as well as air, precipitation and streamwater quality, solar radiation, phenology and the behavior of water in the landscape. Data from the program have been used to understand the dynamics of road salt and the effects of climate change on precipitation chemistry.
Current projects include the effectiveness of road salt reduction practices, the impact of climate change on plant and animal life cycle events (phenology) and monitoring of water at the landscape scale.
Recent publications include Road Salt: The Problem, The Solution, and How to Get There and The State of the Environment, Dutchess County.
Why is it salt turning up in streams in the summertime? Rock Salt lowers the temperature at which water freezes, so it's widely used in wintertime to prevent our roads from icing up. It's a boon for safety but there are environmental consequences.
In the winter, rock salt is routinely spread on our roads to keep them free of ice. We now know that the rock salt can enter into our soil, groundwater, rivers and streams and can stay there year-round, effecting the ecosystem and people.
It's very important to reduce the amount of salt as much as we can when we use it on our roads in the wintertime, and there are a number of steps road service agencies can take to use less salt but still be able to keep roads free of ice and snow, and thus safe for drivers.