Road salt pollutes drinking water wells in N.Y. state, study says

Ground Water Canada
April 12, 2018
By Ground Water Canada
Millbrook, NY – Road salt applied during the winter lingers in the environment, where it can pollute drinking water supplies, according to a recent study in the Journal of Environmental Quality.

In the study, researchers identify landscape and geological characteristics linked to elevated well water salinity in a suburban township in Southeastern New York.

"Each year, millions of metric tons of road salt are applied to roads in the US. Some of this salt seeps into the soil, where it accumulates and contaminates ground water," said Victoria Kelly, lead author and environmental monitoring program manager at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, explained in a news release. "We wanted to understand why some wells were more at risk than others, to inform management that protects water quality."

Kelly and colleagues analyzed publicly available data on water samples taken from 956 private drinking water wells in East Fishkill, New York between 2007 and 2013. More than half of the wells sampled exceeded US Environmental Protection Agency health standards for sodium. Distance to the nearest road and amount of nearby pavement strongly influenced well water salinity. Surprisingly, well depth and road type – ranging from interstate highways to back roads – did not have a significant impact.

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