Salt is useful because it is inexpensive and somewhat effective in breaking down ice and snow on our roads. Following a storm, major roads need to be safe and passable.
Over the last year, the Muddy Branch Alliance has been monitoring chloride levels in the Muddy Branch Stream. We have noticed that following snow events, the chloride levels in these streams goes from “fair” (usually from about 90-150 ppm) to “poor” (over 250 ppm) quality. Poor means that the water is toxic at some level to animal and plant life.
The City of Gaithersburg is doing a good job with salt distribution. Not only are they putting down salt responsibly, but they are also cleaning up afterward – we’ve see the street cleaners! The one thing Gaithersburg could do better on is limiting the salt to only emergency routes and hilly areas. In my neighborhood, for example, my flat dead-end only needs to be plowed. This might also save the city a few dollars in salt and labor costs. Gaithersburg does an excellent job plowing.
Our state and county also do a good job in salting our streets. They also use brine, they train themselves on smart salt use, and they watch the weather forecast closely. Private organizations, which make up about 30% of the salt in our streams, don’t do such a good job. Private organizations are worried about slip and fall litigation and tend to oversalt. Private organization are often untrained and dump salt, sometimes to make a buck.
Below is a chart showing salt levels in the Muddy Branch near Rt 28 in D15. Notice the high marks following winter salt distribution. The levels under Great Seneca Highway and at Watts Branch are even worse.
Blog and images courtesy of guest writer, Karl Van Neste, Montgomery County resident and Muddy Branch Alliance Board Member
And don’t forget to be Salt-wise at home.