Deicing salts are commonly applied during the winter months to prevent roads and sidewalks from freezing and increase traction. Once dissolved in run-off, dissociated chloride ions can rapidly enter aquatic ecosystems, leading to increased salinity that can be toxic to aquatic macroinvertebrates. Macroinvertebrates are crucial organisms at many trophic levels within aquatic ecosystems, and these organisms are sensitive to elevated salinity. By impairing macroinvertebrate communities, increases in salinity caused by salts threaten entire aquatic ecosystems. The purpose of this study was to assess the effects of deicing salt on the salinity of five freshwater ecosystems on the campus of Kent State University. Additionally, chronic toxicity tests assessed how pond snails (Lymnaea stagnalis) tolerated these levels of salinity. We hypothesized that the increased concentrations of chloride ions would negatively impact pond snail growth and survival. Water samples from five locations were collected following a snow event and were measured for conductivity and ionic content. Individual snails (1-3 days old) were introduced to these water samples, and growth and mortality were monitored over a period of four weeks. Preliminary data indicates a correlation between road salt usage and increased levels of chloride in Kent waterways.
Dr. David Costello
The use of salt to increase safety on roads and sidewalks has been shown to negatively affect aquatic macroinvertebrates when dissociated chloride ions enter waterways as run-off. This can have serious consequences for freshwater ecosystems, as macroinvertebrate communities are responsible for critical ecosystem processes. This study identified how road salting affected the salinity of five freshwater ecosystems at KSU as well as how pond snail growth and survival was affected by the chloride concentrations of these systems. Ion chromatography and a conductivity meter were used to measure ion concentrations in each ecosystem. Individual snails were introduced to the water samples, and growth and survivorship were monitored for several weeks. Preliminary data indicates that road salting is correlated to increased chloride concentrations within Kent waterways.