Urban Road Salt Monitoring Project
In fall 2010, a US Geological Survey (USGS) researcher suggested a potential study to assess the impacts of road salt that would be well suited for volunteer monitoring program. He and his colleagues had recently found that some urban streams were toxic to fish and other aquatic life due to excessive salt entering them from nearby roads during winter months.
Water Action Volunteers Stream Monitoring Program staff worked with USGS to develop a citizen monitoring program designed to collect more data across a wider area than in this initial study. Initiated with Madison and Milwaukee area volunteers in February 2011, and expanded to other urban areas each winter since then, volunteers monitor specific conductance in the field and collect stream water samples to be analyzed at certified labs for chloride. Their monitoring has led to the discovery of numerous exceedences of both acute and chronic EPA chloride standards suggesting potential toxic impact to aquatic organisms. In addition, results have demonstrated that the conductivity meters used by the volunteers work well to provide a surrogate measure of chloride in the streams monitored, allowing additoinal monitoring with minimal added costs. A Great Lakes Regional Water Program grant and partnerships with Iowa DNR and Michigan Statue University Extension will allow the project to be expanded to Michigian and Iowa in winter 2012-13.
This project has been a success due to many individuals and groups offering their time and expertise. Monitoring groups include Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Milwaukee Area Technical College, Rock River Coalition, Central Wisconsin Trout Unlimited Riverkeepers, UW-Oshkosh Environmental Studies Program, Carthage College Chemistry Department, UW-Eau Claire Department of Geology, Red Cedar Basin Monitoring Group, Inc., and UW-Stout Biology Department. We are also grateful for assistance from WDNR water quality biologists, UW-Extension Natural Resources Educators, the City of Madison and City of Eau Claire for assistance with site selection. We also recognize staff support from the Red Cedar Sand & Gravel, LLC for an extension of this project by UW-Eau Claire Geology students.
In 2017, the project is continuing statewide only by interested volunteers who have been previously trained to follow the methods. It is not being expanded other than in Milwaukee where a grant was obtained to expand the monitoring effort.