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Chloride found at levels that can harm aquatic life in urban streams of the Northern US
Date:9/16/2009

streams in agricultural areas had chloride levels that exceeded the recommended federal criteria set to protect aquatic life (compared to more than 40 percent of urban streams). Overall, 15 percent of all streams had chloride levels exceeding the criteria.

Chloride concentrations in shallow groundwater (not used for drinking) were 16 times greater in urban areas than in forests, and 4 times greater in urban areas than in agricultural areas.

Highest levels in streams in the winter

In urban streams, the highest levels of chloride (as great as 4,000 parts per million, which is about 20 times higher than the recommended federal criteria) were measured during winter months when salt and other chemicals are used for deicing.

Increases over time

Increases in chloride levels in streams during the last two decades are consistent with overall increases in salt use in the U.S. for deicing.

Increasing chloride yields are linked to the expansion of road networks and parking lots that require deicing, increases in the number of septic systems, increases in wastewater discharge, and increases in saline groundwater from landfills.

Sources can vary locally

Chloride in ground and surface waters comes from many sources including the use and storage of salt for deicing roads, septic systems, wastewater treatment facilities, water softening, animal waste, fertilizers, discharge from landfills, natural sources of salt and brine in geologic deposits, and from natural and human sources in precipitation.


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Contact: John Mullaney
jmullane@usgs.gov
860-291-6760
United States Geological Survey
Source:Eurekalert

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