Even in Mild Winters, Louisville’s Salt Usage Could Affect Waterways

by Erica Peterson on February 27, 2012

Louisville’s mild winter has resulted in less snow and ice…and less salt dumped onto city streets. But even in snow-less years, the city still uses large amounts of salt that could negatively affect the area’s streams.

So far this winter, Metro Government has used about 6,200 TONS of salt to de-ice roads. That’s significantly less than last year’s 42,000 tons. But it’s still a lot of salt for a winter without any noticeable snow accumulation.

And once the salt is applied, it can end up in the streams and creeks around the city.

Judy Petersen is the executive director of the Kentucky Waterways Alliance.

“Salt can be, and is, very toxic to most freshwater aquatic life like the fish and the mussels and the things that we find in our local rivers and streams,” she said.

Petersen says it’s important to keep roads safe during winter, but there’s a necessary balance.

“As we’ve redesigned the landscape for people and for cars, what we’ve tended to do in a lot of cases is put the streams right beside the road so they’re right there to receive that runoff,” she said. “And it’s those smaller streams that typically have a lot more impacts than the bigger streams.”

When there’s significant snowfall, the snow melts into the streams and helps neutralize the extra salt. But that’s not the case this winter, and large amounts of salt could compound problems in impaired waterways like Floyds Fork and Beargrass Creek.

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