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Issues of the Environment: The Impact of Road Salt in the Huron River Watershed

Road Salt
Sgt. Jorge Intriago
U.S. Air National Guard Photo



  • The Washtenaw County Road Commission reports laying down 50% more road salt this winter than last year and using twice as much as in 2012.
  • Although thus far no ill effects from salt in Huron River watershed have been detected, road salt has a number of environmentally destructive effects impacting water, soil, wildlife, and public health, and if extreme winter weather conditions become the norm the effects could escalate.
  • Ric Lawson, Watershed Planner for the Huron River Watershed Council, implements watershed plans in Washtenaw County and monitors water quality for salt and other sediments in our waterways.

Environmental Impacts of Road Salt
According to Jason Frenzel at the Huron River Watershed Council, “we haven't been able to find any actual evidence of road salt impacting local waterways. Conceptually there are a number of problems.” If future winters are like 2014, the “conceptual” programs could become actual problems.  
Water Quality Monitoring page: A site that discusses ongoing water quality data for the region.

Some tips include:

  • Shovel early and often to avoid using salt or deicers altogether.Consider a deicer such as magnesium chloride and check labels for proper application tips.
  • Limit your use of sand.  Instead of melting ice, sand provides traction.  But it also increases the amount of sediment in our lakes, rivers and streams when it washes into storm drains with melting snow.
  • Promptly remove slush and any residual salt, sand or deicer from concrete surfaces to minimize polluted runoff.

More Homeowner salting tips

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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