Pass (on) the Salt

January, 2007

Road salt (sodium chloride) is recognized increasingly as a contaminant in New England surface waters. Chloride is often linked to a general decrease in water quality as nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus increase in lakes, leading to algal blooms and an increase in invasive plant species. Increases in chloride of as much as 400 percent in lakes in New England in the past 20 years have been documented. Certain lake water supplies in central New Hampshire have recently recorded 50 percent increases in sodium chloride. Some streams in the state are regularly in violation of the aquatic life toxicity limit of 230 parts per millions of chloride.

PSU researchers Steve Kahl and Dari Sassan have received a $40,000 grant from the N.H. Department of Environmental Services to study protection of waterways by reducing use of road salt. Sassan, a graduate student in the Center for the Environment, will use the data for his master’s thesis in environmental science and policy. The project will evaluate sources of salt in five southern New Hampshire towns to assess how to decrease the amount of chloride in streams in order to meet water quality criteria.

Kahl, founding director of the CFE and professor of environmental science, is a veteran researcher in water quality studies, including studies on the fate and transport of road salt in watersheds. He believes the road salt project is a “win-win situation” for both DES and PSU: “This is an example of how PSU as a regional university is enhancing its expertise to serve New Hampshire in a cost-effective manner, by integrating regional service into its new graduate programs.”

Sassan, a New Hampshire native, cited his primary career objective as preserving the character of northern New Hampshire in a way that creates economic and environmental sustainability. He applauded PSU’s demonstrated commitment to serving the region: “Through this and other projects the Center for the Environment has taken on, CFE graduate students are gaining valuable, real world knowledge that will allow them to hit the ground running as they enter the workforce.”—Bruce Lyndes


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