PSU Joins In Road Salt Study

September 18th, 2006 by Adam

Plymouth State University researchers Steve Kahl and Dari Sassan have received a $40,000 grant from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) to study protection of waterways by reducing use of road salt. The grant is part of a DES water quality study in advance of the widening of I-93 south of Concord. 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 as part of an assessment of how to decrease the amount of chloride in streams in order to meet water quality criteria.

Road salt (sodium chloride) is increasingly being recognized as a contaminant in New England surface waters because of land development, more roads and the need for de-icing these roads. 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 increased occurrence of invasive plant species. Recent publications, including those by researchers at PSU, have documented increases in chloride as much as 400% in lakes in New England in the past 20 years. There are lake water supplies in central New Hampshire that have recently recorded 50% increases in sodium chloride. Some streams in New Hampshire are regularly in violation of the aquatic life toxicity limit of 230 parts per millions of chloride.

Kahl, founding director of the Center for the Environment (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 has also conducted a variety of projects on lake water chemistry, acid rain and mercury. Kahl believes the I-93 corridor salt project 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. We want these PSU programs to raise the educational aspirations and training of citizens, especially in the northern part of the state and to provide increased economic opportunities,” said Kahl.

Sassan, a New Hampshire native, cites his primary career objective as preserving the character of northern New Hampshire in a way that creates economic and environmental sustainability. He applauds PSU’s demonstrated commitment to serving the region. “In creating the Center for the Environment, PSU has responded to the regional need for professionals trained to deal with the new challenges that a rapidly changing landscape poses. 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.”

Contact information:
Bruce Lyndes,
Media Relations Mgr.,
Plymouth State University,