Mr. Fred Akers, Administrator, The Greater Egg Harbor Watershed Association could not provide specific answers to our questions in a recent interview because, again, that scientific data simply does not exist.  He makes a great point that at present time there is little or no alternatives to using road salt and that short-term human safety issues far outweigh the negative long-term environmental resource degradation.  Mr. Akers makes a remarkable observation that could actually become a legal means to ban the use of sodium chloride in pristine Pinelands protection and preservation areas;  “Pinelands water is natural with no road salt runoff, so any road salt runoff at all causes degradation to natural water quality, which in theory is not permitted in the Pinelands,” according to Akers. He did not advocate this solution to our collective problem with sodium chloride but surely polluting water resources in the Pinelands is not permitted; that point is clear.  The pollutant is allowed to continue to be placed in the environment because no one has sued to challenge use of contaminants on our road surfaces and no cheap alternatives exist. 

Mr. Akers provided us with local water quality studies and references which are found within this post. Mr. Akers believes and we agree, “Road salt runoff is creating an ever increasing residual concentration of salty surface and ground water.  People with shallow drinking water wells are already at risk if they are near a steady source of significant road salt runoff.” There are current problems with homeowners that have shallow drinking water wells. The cumulative effects of repeated use in heavy application areas (i.e., around cloverleaf and superhighway interchanges) can have negative effects on surface soils and drinking water derived from shallow wells.

Mr. Akers agrees with our previous post that in the past municipal and highway and state agencies were not overly concerned with the negative effect that salt would have on the groundwater aquifer where salt was stored prior to use. He told us, “In the past, there was little concern for road salt runoff, and many road agencies and parking lot managers kept their salt on the ground outside.  Some time ago a [NJDEP] rule was enforced that road [and government] agencies had to store their salt under a roof, and this rule has been helpful to reduce runoff and wasted salt. 

In general, people who store and apply road salt need to be as conservative and responsible as possible to prevent as much salt runoff as possible. Enforcement of the rules regarding salt storage and handling is a major tool to mitigate the problem.  Employing street sweepers to pick up any residual salt and sand as the roads dry up is a good practice that needs to be used more.”