WQ1303: A Rise in Chlorides: A Case For Reducing Road Salt Application

 

Speaker: Emily Sjostrom, MS

 

Increasing road salt application has followed a trend of increasing chloride levels in shallow wells and a rise in chloride in the Illinois River in Peoria, IL. Much of the recharge area for the regions aquifer is located near major highways, intersections, and rural routes. During this session, we will identify the environmental health risks from increased chlorides, learn of recent developments from the snow and ice removal industry on reducing chloride contamination, and compare results of salt application from un-calibrated salt trucks with calibrated salt trucks.

 

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Road salt application, since applied in earnest around the 1960s, has followed a trend of increasing chloride levels in shallow wells (>200ft) and a rise in chloride in the Illinois River in Peoria, IL. Much of the recharge area for the regions aquifer is located near major highways, intersections, and rural routes. EPAs delineation of chlorides for Class I potable groundwater standards is 200 mg/L. Some levels in the Tri-County region had levels as high as 1879 mg/L. Higher chloride levels in the drinking water pose issues for public health. Persons on a restricted sodium intake will find it hard to maintain safe sodium intake levels in simply drinking the recommended 8 glasses of water a day.

 

Tazewell County Health Department decided to host a workshop to educate local winter maintenance operators on appropriate technology, salt application techniques and salt storage to reduce the amount of salt runoff contamination to the areas water supply. Community partnerships were established and grant funding was solicited from Illinois American Water as well as the Central Regional Groundwater Committee, and the training was delivered through the expertise of national APWA speakers.

 

Over 90 participants were certified in snow and ice winter maintenance, and upon completion of the workshop, operators were armed with new information to apply. For the first time, multiple highway departments calibrated their trucks for more appropriate salt distribution; after which limited application of pounds per lane mile administered on the roads during snow events while still achieving desired road condition results. One highway department even constructed a makeshift tool to create a salt brine mixture to create more accurate distribution while also decreasing the amount of salt needed to apply. The second year, the planning for the workshop became even more sustainable by utilizing participants trained from the previous year in the calibration training. The Heart of Illinois Winter Maintenance Workshop has made a positive contribution to protecting local groundwater and drinking water; and intends to extend education to the community on perception of appropriate salt application necessary for safe roads and parking lots.