To the Editor:
Before the state Department of Transportation and Oregon cities and communities commit to the use or increased salt as a de-icing agent they should all consider the recently released results of studies on the use of salt in the Northeast and Midwest.
Long term studies in these areas now show that the use of salt on roads and highways has degraded the water quality of ponds, lakes, and other waterways into which the salt-laden runoff ultimately drains. And the results are not good.
The studies show that there has been a negative impact to water quality resulting in harm to fish, invertebrates, amphibians and plants. In short, most forms of aquatic life have been damaged or are disappearing from the impacted waterways.
There is no easy answer to keeping road surfaces ice free. But if the transportation agencies insist on the use of salt, then the legislature needs to increase funding to the Department of Enviromental Quality and Department of Fish and Wildlife so that these agencies can begin studies of water bodies likely to receive the salty runoff. It is important to establish background (before salt use) levels of salinity and other bio-markers so that future wetland monitoring can detect changes that could spell trouble. As we know, it is very difficult and expensive to repair and restore streams, ponds and lakes to good health once damage has occurred.
Studies also show that salt damages road surfaces and related infrastructure and vehicles at an annual cost ranging in the millions of dollars. Damage from road salt use is far reaching.