by Kasha Helget
Many people have noticed the increased use of road salt and deicing materials in our area in recent years. These products don’t just land on roadways, parking lots, and sidewalks; they also affect the landscape, and seep into the soil, groundwater, storm drains, and surface waters with adverse impacts to aquatic life, vegetation, and wildlife as well as human health from the increased levels of salt on surfaces and in drinking water.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has tracked these changes and impacts and is working on plans to do something about it. On January 17, 2018, the DEQ and its contractors, the Interstate Commission for the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB) hosted a public meeting on the development of a Salt Management Strategy (SaMS) for the Northern Virginia region. The region includes: Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William counties, and the cities of Alexandria, Manassas, Manassas Park, Falls Church, and Fairfax.
Representatives of DEQ and ICPRB described some of the impacts and challenges of snow and ice management, answered questions from the audience, and provided information on how people can get involved in the process of developing a SaMS for the region.
Origin of the SaMS Strategy
The SaMS was initiated as a result of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study that DEQ completed for the Accotink Creek watershed in July 2017. The study identified chloride (salt) from snow and deicing activities that contributed to water quality impairment in the creek. The TMDL was developed with a focus on implementing best management practices such as training and certification programs and improved salt application equipment and practices. Given that existing snow and ice management practices are not limited to the Accotink Creek watershed, the SaMS is being developed with the entire Northern Virginia region in mind.
Goals and Desired Outcomes of SaMS
The two broad goals of SaMS are to: (1) provide a strategy to achieve the target chloride loads identified in the Accotink Creek TMDL and the broader surrounding region, and (2) foster collaboration among all stakeholder groups involved in winter deicing/anti-icing activities to improve practices that protect public safety and lessen the effects on the environment, infrastructure, and public health.
Procedures Going Forward
Following the January 17 public meeting to introduce SaMS, there is a comment period on the proposals till February 16, and there will be working group and stakeholder advisory committee meetings throughout the development process. There will also be another public meeting and comment period at the end of the process. The SaMS process should be completed by December, 2019.
How to Provide Public Comment by February 16
Anyone who is concerned about salt’s impacts on vegetation, wildlife, aquatic life, as well as human health and infrastructure effects may provide comments by February 16 on plans for development of the SaMS, and the Report on the Impacts of Salts on the Environment, Infrastructure; and may volunteer to participate on the Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC), which will address the SaMS issues. To comment or volunteer for the SAC, click: HERE,
For additional information on impacts of and strategies to address road salts and deicing methods, see:
New Hampshire’s Environmental, Health and Economic Impacts of Road Salt; Smithsonian.com’s Future of Conservation: The Hidden Dangers of Road Salt;
Virginia Tech’s Study finds road salt contamination in groundwater; and
Greater Greater Washington’s, Salt with care to protect your drinking water.