Public Lab Research note

Freshwater Salinity Preliminary Research

by paigesolomon | February 17, 2015 17:07 17 Feb 17:07 | #11592 | #11592

Paige Solomon, Cody Bowman, Ryan Smythe Preliminary Research of Road Salt


  • Around 22 million tons of salt is used on roads across the U.S. annually
  • Boston’s salt comes from Eastern Salt Company’s Chelsea Terminal (mines salt from Mexico, Egypt, Ireland, Australia, and Chile)-Boston’s salt came from Chile
  • According to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, around 585,000 tons of road salt were used for 2014’s snowfall (Boston received around 58.6 inches of snow from 2013-2014)
  • So far this year, Boston has received around 84 inches of snow
  • Costs of road salt have risen from $50 per ton to $70.65 per ton
  • Sodium and chloride ions from the road salt runoff into streams, rivers, lakes, and groundwater
  • As areas in the U.S. become more developed, the risk of salt entering bodies of water increases. (Example: Mohawk River’s salinity increased by 130 percent from 1952 to 1998 as a result of the development of a nearby area)
  • Chloride ions, as a result of road salt, exceed the “recommended federal criteria” in streams (more so during the winter months).
  • Road salt can runoff into the groundwater causing saltier drinking water (happens more during the winter months)
  • Higher levels of salt in bodies of water can result in a reduction of oxygen in the lower layers of water.
  • Road salt dries out and kills trees and plants
  • 1941, New Hampshire was the first state to use salt to dissolve ice and snow
  • In bodies of water with increased chloride, there is a smaller margin of survival for frogs and salamanders
  • Before 1997, Boston dumped snow into the harbor until the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection prohibited it.
  • Boston is melting snow with a couple of snow-melting machines from Boston Port Authority (can melt 150 tons of snow per hour), and they are dumping snow in snow farms.
  • One snow farm received 1,400 truckloads or 25,000 cubic yards of snow
  • Boston’s drinking water comes from the Quabbin and the Wachusetts Reservoirs in Western Massachusetts
  • Salt used to be used as a chemical weapon to destroy fields and farms in Roman times and before

Players Involved

  • Eastern Salt Company’s Chelsea Terminal provides the salt to Boston
  • Boston’s Public Works Department in charge of de-icing and plowing the streets
  • Massachusetts Department of Environment Protection, Boston Water and Sewer Commission
  • Charles River Watershed Association-keeps the Charles River clean
  • The Boston Harbor Association

Possible Interviews

  • Paul Lamb-Manager of Eastern Salt Company’s Chelsea Terminal
  • Drivers of snow plows/salt trucks
  • Robert Zimmerman Jr.-Executive Director of the Charles River Watershed Association
  • Vivien Li (President) or Julie Wormser (Executive Director)-Boston Harbor Association


Login to comment.