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Road Salt Is Hurting Rivers, Leaching Heavy Metals from Old Pipes

Road salt is causing freshwater rivers and streams to become noticably saltier.
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Road salt is causing freshwater rivers and streams to become noticably saltier.

A new study highlights a side-effect of winter weather that is, on one hand, totally logical and, on the other hand, rather shocking. The U.S. uses some 19 million tons of salt each year for de-icing roads and other infrastructure. Now, that practice has been linked to widespread changes in the chemistry of American rivers and streams, particularly their salinity and alkalinity. 

That has implications for drinking water systems and the diversity of freshwater ecosystems.

Sujay Kaushal, associate professor of geology and earth system science at  University of Maryland, College Park, is lead author of that study. He says it all got started when the water in his home turned dark brown.