Snow, Salt, and Rain Brew a Bad Combination for Maryland Waterways

This Week’s Rain Could Cause Rapid Runoff of Built-up Road Salt

Maryland waterways should prepare for an influx of road salt in the coming days. Last week’s snowfall and abundant road salt application, combined with this week’s rain will be a perfect storm for excess salt entering streams and rivers.

Rapid increases in salinity levels from road treatment can harm or kill freshwater aquatic species and contaminate our region’s drinking water sources.

Maryland Department of the Environment has been working to implement a new training program meant to reduce road salt usage. The program would benefit the state's streams, drinking water reservoirs, and wildlife. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has encouraged more conscious usage of salt and chemical de-icers across the watershed, especially in Pennsylvania, which typically experiences more snowfall.

With less predictable weather in the face of climate change, Maryland must remain vigilant. 

Gussie Maguire, Maryland Staff Scientist at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said in a statement:

“Maryland streams are about to get a lot saltier. As temperatures rise and rain falls, all the salt that’s been built up on roadways, sidewalks, and industrial lots will be flushed into the nearest waterway.

“Some de-icing chemicals include nitrates which can feed harmful algal blooms that lead to dead zones. Salt can kill vegetation on the side of roads and harm wildlife. Many of our region’s iconic freshwater species like native brook trout need healthy, clean groundwater to thrive. Too much salinity could cause a major disturbance.

“Climate change has completely altered how we experience winter weather. We urge Maryland residents to exercise caution when applying salt, to avoid overapplying, and to consider salt alternatives such as calcium magnesium acetate (CMA)-based products or even sand, whenever possible. Your local rivers, streams, and the Bay will thank you.”


Valerie Keefer

Maryland Communications & Media Relations Manager, CBF

[email protected]

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