From: Mary L. Martialay via Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Published February 28, 2017 05:27 PM

Road Salt Alternatives Alter Aquatic Ecosystems

Jefferson Project researchers test effects of common road salt, additives, and alternatives

Organic additives found in road salt alternatives — such as those used in the commercial products GeoMelt and Magic Salt — act as a fertilizer to aquatic ecosystems, promoting the growth of algae and organisms that eat algae, according to new research published today in the Journal of Applied Ecology. Low levels of magnesium chloride — an alternative type of salt found in the commercial product Clear Lane – boost populations of amphipods, tiny crustaceans that feed on algae and serve as an important food source for fish.

Alternatives and additives to the most common form of road salt, sodium chloride, are marketed as environmentally friendly replacements because they allow highway crews to maintain ice-free roads while applying less salt. But the alternatives and additives may not be without environmental consequences, said Rick Relyea, director of the Jefferson Project at Lake George.

“Additives and alternative salts are presumed to be less environmentally harmful because they let us use less sodium chloride, but what about the potential impact of the additives and salt alternatives themselves?” said Relyea, a professor of biological sciences and the David M. Darrin ’40 Senior Endowed Chair at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “We know almost nothing about the impact of these additives and alternatives on aquatic ecosystems.”

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