As Road Salt Ends Up in N.H. Rivers, Scientists Worry About Fish and Plant Habitat

Jul 23, 2018

Researchers at UNH say they used computer modeling to study the impact of road salts on New Hampshire streams.


The team found that, on average, some 11 percent of streams in the Merrimack River watershed are affected by elevated salinity.


"And that is starting to -- we suspect -- impact aquatic habitats,” said Associate Professor Wilfred Wollheim, one of the study's authors.


There are other ways of melting snow and ice on New Hampshire roads, including using byproducts from beer and even beet production, but they might create new problems.


"Essentially, you're trading off more or less a salt contaminant for an organic one,” said Shan Zuidema, a research scientist with the Water Systems Analysis Group UNH. “And that has other impacts on the aquatic ecosystem."


For now, using salts more efficiently is key. Zuidema said New Hampshire's municipalities and state contractors are leading the way with more efficient salt application, with some opting to get certified with what’s called Green SnowPro training. The next step is getting private citizens and contractors to follow suit.