Organization monitoring excess road salt in waterways

Published: Dec. 28, 2022 at 10:43 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The sun and road salt helped to clean up some of the snow from last week’s winter storm, but some agencies worry about where the excess road salt could end up.

The Izaak Walton League of America enlists volunteers to track rates of certain chemicals in waterways across the United States. New data shows Iowa encompasses 31% of the organization’s annual reporting thus far. About 8% of the streams and rivers where more than 500 tests had taken place have high or dangerously high levels of chloride.

Abby Hileman, Snow Watch coordinator, said those levels could kill some microorganisms and disrupt the ecosystem.

“We’ve seen daphnia, or water fleas, die from high levels of chloride,” Hileman said. “Daphnia are responsible for eating algae.”

Hileman said the over-applying road salt is a large contributor to high levels, specifically contracted applicators.

“They have no idea how much salt to apply, or they might not have the right equipment to apply this sort of properly or the knowledge or to know how,” Hileman said.

Hileman said it was important to know how much salt to apply, and also ways to spread the salt out to increase the effectiveness and sweep up excess salt from sidewalks and driveways.

Hileman said higher levels of chloride in waterways aren’t just bad for organisms but was also corrosive to structures.

You can find more about the program on its website.