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Many urban streams harmful to aquatic life following winter pavement deicing
Date:9/1/2010

This USGS report is published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology and is available as a free download online at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es101333u.

The use of salt to deice pavement can leave urban streams toxic to aquatic life, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study on the influence of winter runoff in northern U.S. cities, with a special focus on eastern Wisconsin and Milwaukee.

More than half of the Milwaukee streams included in this study had samples that were toxic during winter deicing. In eastern and southern Wisconsin, all streams studied had potentially toxic chloride concentrations during winter, with lingering effects into the summer at some streams. Nationally, samples from fifty-five percent of streams studied in 13 northern cities were potentially toxic; twenty-five percent of the streams had samples that exceeded acute water quality criteria.

Toxicity was measured by direct testing of organisms in samples during the local study component; in the regional and the national study components, observed chloride levels were used to assess potential toxicity.

"While winter driving and walking safety are the priority in treating pavements, this study suggests the need for advancements that will reduce salt loads to surface waters without compromising safety," said Matthew C. Larsen, USGS Associate Director for Water.

"We expected to see elevated chloride levels in streams near northern cities during the winter months," said Steve Corsi of the USGS Wisconsin Water Science Center. "The surprise was the number of streams exceeding toxic levels and how high the concentrations were," said Corsi, who led the study.

"This study shows that chloride contamination of urban streams is a problem in many places; it's not just a Milwaukee problem," said Corsi.

While road deicing accounts for a significa
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Contact: Kara Capelli
kcapelli@usgs.gov
571-230-6601
United States Geological Survey
Source:Eurekalert

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