Nationwide, 10 times as much salt goes on the road as is used to season all processed foods. But as with food, too much salt in freshwater is harmful. It’s a growing problem that threatens efforts to protect stream health in the Chesapeake watershed, and even in the Bay itself.Salt tolerances vary quite a lot in freshwater animals. Many fish are quite tolerant of salt, and benefit from an addition of salt to their water. Most trout, for example, can run into sea water, and live there for a majority of their life, as can most bass and many catfish.
“Salt is an unfolding train wreck for streams across the mid-Atlantic and I think across the United States,” said Robert Hilderbrand, a stream scientist with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Appalachian Laboratory, at a conference last winter.
Yet he noted the paradox that confronts elected officials and highway crews each winter: He said he was only able to attend the conference because the roads had been salted the day before because of an ice storm.
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“The bottom line is that freshwater animals don’t tend to like saltwater — particularly the most sensitive of animals, like some amphibians and mussels,” said Scott Stranko, who oversees stream monitoring programs at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
I think the problem of road salt is exaggerated by the EPA, but I urge them to get salt use banned in Washington D.C. for a few year before they try to enlarge the ban nationwide.
Also some classic fear mongering at By the Numbers: 2.5 million
According to the Chesapeake Stormwater Network, between 10 and 20 million tons of road salt—the most common form of which is sodium chloride—are applied to the nation’s highways each year. About a third of this is applied to states in the mid-Atlantic, and stormwater professionals estimate that 2.5 million tons of road salt are applied annually across the Chesapeake Bay watershed. While a Chesapeake Bay Commission review of regional road salt policies found that the indiscriminate application of road salt does not typically occur in Maryland, Virginia or Pennsylvania, evidence shows that chloride concentrations in Maryland’s freshwater streams have increased over the last 40 years because of salt accumulation.What you have to go elsewhere at the Bay Program to find:
Approximately 51 billion gallons of water flow into the Bay each day from its freshwater tributaries.