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Environment & Climate Change

Report: Road salt contributing to pollution in Great Lakes

Salt pile.jpg
Road Commission of Oakland County
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The Road Commission of Oakland County uses tens of thousands of tons of road salt every winter.

The Great Lakes are not as fresh as they used to be. A new report says the lakes are getting saltier, and that has serious impacts on the organisms that live in them.

The report says a majority of that salt is coming from the de-icing products used on roads.

Rob Mooney is one of the researchers behind the report. He says the Great Lakes are not yet so salty that all of their freshwater organisms are dying off. But he says small amounts of salt can harm sensitive species like zooplankton and will have effects up the food chain to fish.

He says the Great Lakes states need to change how they treat roads during storms.

"The nice thing about salt pollution in the Great Lakes is, we know what’s causing it for the most part, and there’s absolutely a way to stop that from happening," he said.

Mooney says any reduction in salt use on roads has the potential to reduce salt concentration in the Great Lakes and the rivers that flow into them.

The report suggests that the region use liquid brine or sand instead of salt. He also called for better storage spaces for the salt, like buildings with roofs, walls and cement floors.

It also suggests using "live-edge" snowplows that have multiple blades instead of one.

Mooney says those clear more snow and reduce the need for salt.

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