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Effects of road salts on groundwater and surface water dynamics of socium and chloride in an urban restored stream
Cooper, C. A., P. MAYER, AND B. R. Faulkner. Effects of road salts on groundwater and surface water dynamics of socium and chloride in an urban restored stream. BIOGEOCHEMISTRY. Springer, New York, NY, 121:149-166, (2014).
Road salts are a growing environmental concern in urban watersheds. We examined groundwater (GW) and surface water (SW) dynamics of Na+ and Cl− in Minebank Run (MBR), an urban stream in Maryland, USA.
Road salts are a growing environmental concern in urban watersheds. We examined groundwater (GW) and surface water (SW) dynamics of Na+ and Cl− in Minebank Run (MBR), an urban stream in Maryland, USA. We observed an increasing salinity trend in this restored stream. Current baseflow salinity does not exceed water quality recommendations, but rapid “first flush” storm flow was approximately one-third that of seawater. Comparisons between the upstream and downstream study reaches suggest that a major interstate highway is the primary road salt source. A heavily used road parallels most of MBR and was an additional source to GW concentrations, especially the downstream right bank. A baseflow synoptic survey identified zones of increased salinity. Downstream piezometer wells exhibited increases in salt concentrations and there was evidence that Na+ is exchanging Ca2+ and Mg2+ on soils. SW salt concentrations were generally elevated above GW concentrations. Salinity levels persisted at MBR throughout the year and were above background levels at Bynum Run, a nearby reference stream not bisected by a major highway, suggesting that GW is a long-term reservoir for accumulating road salts. Chronic salinity levels may be high enough to damage vegetation and salinity peaks could impact other biota. Beneficial uses and green infrastructure investments may be at risk from salinity driven degradation. Therefore, road salt may represent an environmental risk that could affect aquatic biota and limit the effectiveness of costly resource management and restoration efforts.