Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Roadways and Parking Lots Threaten Freshwater Quality in the Northeastern U.S.

06.09.2005


There are 2.6 million miles of paved roads in the United States, and new roads are being constructed daily. When parking lots and driveways are factored in, there is already enough blacktopped surface in the U.S. to cover the entire state of Ohio. Paved roads and parking spaces come in handy for our nation’s drivers, but they also come with a serious unforeseen cost— the degradation of our nation’s freshwater ecosystems.




In a recent Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper, Drs. Sujay S. Kaushal, Peter M. Groffman, and Gene E. Likens of the Institute of Ecosystem Studies, with colleagues, detail how roadways and deicers are compromising the health of northeastern waters, making them inhospitable to wildlife and compromising drinking water supplies. Their insights were made possible by long-term data recorded by the Institute of Ecosystem Studies, the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study, the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the City of Baltimore.

By looking at records of chloride concentration in a range of northeastern waterways— from urban and suburban sources in New York’s Hudson Valley and Baltimore County, Maryland to rural streams in the White Mountains of New Hampshire— the researchers concluded that freshwater salinity has been increasing at an alarming rate over the past 30 years. In the Baltimore study area, there was a strong relationship between impervious surface coverage (i.e. roads and parking lots) and chloride concentration. Road salt was cited as an important source of chloride pollution.


Dr. Kaushal, a Post Doctoral Associate at the Institute of Ecosystem Studies when the research was conducted, comments, "There is a direct connection between the construction of new roadways and parking lots and the quality of our fresh water. In particular, we haven’t paid attention to how rapid changes in human development and deicer use impact the watersheds that supply our region’s drinking water." Adding that, "We are hardening the watershed and feeding it a high sodium diet that is detrimental to the health of aquatic ecosystems."

The changes observed were not subtle. By accumulating in ground water and aquifers, road salt was linked to year-round increases in freshwater salinity. In New York and Maryland, freshwater salinity reached levels equivalent to 25% of the concentration of seawater. In developed areas of Baltimore, chloride concentrations were already high enough to induce mortality in aquatic animals and alter wetland plant composition. Even in rural New Hampshire, where road density is low, a number of streams were as saline as the tidal waters of the Hudson River estuary.

Dr. Groffman, of the Institute of Ecosystem Studies, notes, "It is surprising and significant that the long-term record shows that salinity concentrations are going up, even in places where the amount of salt applied has not increased. Concentrations are high in the summer, not just in the winter when salt is applied to melt snow, suggesting that salt is accumulating in the environment. The salinity increases we observed in rural areas, with minimal road coverage, indicate that the urban/suburban effect on stream chloride is prevalent over large land areas."

If salinity levels continue to rise in the northeastern U.S., Kaushal and colleagues warn that within the next century many freshwater sources will be toxic to aquatic life and unfit for human consumption. Reversing the problem involves reducing the creation of new roads and subsequent use of deicers. Despite being a major aquatic pollutant, road salt is not currently regulated as a freshwater contaminant.

Lori M. Quillen | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ecostudies.org

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon
09.12.2016 | Wildlife Conservation Society

nachricht Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>