Road Salt Monitoring

Question 1: Does anyone have any information on road salt accumulation, etc.?

Question 2: I would love some feedback on starting a road salt monitoring program.

Question 1

From: Tony Williams
To: Volunteer water monitoring
Sent: Tuesday, March 22, 2005 1:58 PM
Subject: [volmonitor] road salt accumulation

Does anyone have any information on road salt accumulation, road salt runoff to lakes, rivers, estuaries, or other concerns with road salt?
Or a link to a web page on this concern.

Tony Williams
Water Monitoring Coordinator
The Coalition for Buzzards Bay
Nashawena Mills – 620 Belleville Avenue
New Bedford, Massachusetts 02745
Tel. 508-999-6363 x.203
Fax. 508-984-7913

Responses to Question 1

(Editor’s note: Not all responses are compiled here; some were lost before being posted…)

Date: Tue, 22 Mar 2005 17:45:30 -0500
From: Jeff Schloss
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] road salt accumulation

Not knowing your specifics I have listed some suggestions for starting below:

I have a host of circa 1970, 1980 and early 1990 references on road salt impacts that I can fax you if you need. The one seminal paper is by Robert Bubeck et al. (note: Lucky for you Bob was one of my graduate advisors):
Runoff of Deicing Salt: Effect on Irondequoit Bay, Rochester, New York (in Reports) Robert C. Bubeck; William H. Diment; Bruce L. Deck; Alton L. Baldwin; Stewart D. LiptonScience, New Series, Vol. 172, No. 3988. (Jun. 11, 1971), pp. 1128-1132.

This was one of the first to suggest that accumulated salts in bottom waters could prevent mixing of lakes.

It seems Science had an article on road salt each issue for a while -one of local interest may be:
Release of Mercury from Contaminated Freshwater Sediments by the Runoff of Road Deicing Salt
G. Feick; R. A. Horne; D. Yeaple
Science Vol. 175, No. 4026 (Mar., 1972), pp. 1142-1143

Also closer to home for you (in Mass.) I know Normandeau Associates in NH did a “Generic Environmental Impact Report” on road salt accumulation in February 1992 for the Massachusetts Department of Public Works Snow and Ice Control Program. I only have the draft report of this document but I expect you have better connections.

Also Mark Mattson and others at UMass did a very nice GIS analysis showing water quality impacts to streams nearest to highway networks if you were looking for cause/effect studies. It is available on the JAWA web site.

I also know there has been some funded work by USGS Water Resources Research Centers on salt impact to inverts:

In terms of salt alternatives there has been a lot of work up in Alaska on using acetate compounds but they found a pretty high BOD resulted. See Lake and Reservoir Management Vol 5 (2):
Effects of Calcium Magnesium Acetate Deicer on Small Ponds in Interior Alaska
Jacqueline D. LaPerriere and Caryn L. Rea
pp. 49-57

I would also follow-up on Elizabeth’ recommendations for even more current references.



Date: Fri, 25 Mar 2005 12:02:45 -0500
From: Marie-Françoise Walk
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] road salt accumulation

Hi Tony,
A late reply in case nobody mentioned this person to you: At the COLAP meeting this past January, Douglas Heath, of USEPA Region 1 in Boston gave this talk and knows a lot about road salt pollution in the region: ROAD SALT IMPACT TO LAKES, STREAMS AND GROUNDWATER from Interstate 93 and Adjacent Roads in Southern New Hampshire —

Marie-Françoise Walk

Question 2

Date: Fri, 13 Nov 2009 08:39:09 -0800 (PST)
From: Kelly Stettner
Subject: [volmonitor] Sodium chloride sampling?
To: Volunteer water monitoring

Good morning. I would like to start a modest program to monitor for road salt at a location where a brook meets the Black River. I would love some feedback if you have any experience with this!
Caveats or warnings? Inexpensive equipment? Best practices & procedures? Testing done yourselves or by a lab? Any other advice?
Many thanks,
Kelly Stettner

Black River Action Team (BRAT)
45 Coolidge Road
Springfield, VT 05156

Responses to Question 2

From: Stepenuck, Kris
Date: Friday, November 13, 2009, 12:27 PM


You might be able to use simple conductivity meters such as the Oakton EC Testr.



On Fri, Nov 13, 2009 at 12:08 PM, Kelly Stettner wrote:

Thanks, Kris! I’m right there with you, that a conductivity test would be a great first-stage indicator as to whether further testing is warranted. I’ll check around to see who carries the one you mention ~ have you used that one yourself or know anyone who has? I’d love to know if it has any quirks or particularly helpful features!
Much appreciated,


From: Stepenuck, Kris
Date: Monday, November 16, 2009, 5:00 PM


Yes, we have used it with some on-farm monitoring, rusty crayfish monitoring and in marshes. I like it, though we haven’t put them to tough tough use. They can be easily calibrated with a solution I was able to buy in small packets, but they come factory calibrated too, which is nice. Batteries do run out esp. if left sitting for a long time.



Update 2015: See here for Wisconsin’s volunteer road salt monitoring program:

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