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Prescription for Northern Virginia: low-salt diet

February 8, 2021

Bay Journal — By Timothy Wheeler — February 8, 2021

"Hoping to reverse a serious threat to the health of Northern Virginia streams, state officials have assembled a hefty toolkit aimed at helping the region’s paved surfaces go on a reduced-salt diet.

Wintertime salt use to melt snow and ice on roads, parking lots and sidewalks has been increasing for years across the region, and it’s known to have impaired aquatic life in at least one Potomac River tributary, Accotink Creek. Other streams, and even drinking water reservoirs, are similarly threatened.

In January, the state Department of Environmental Quality unveiled a salt management strategy for Northern Virginia, spelling out a plethora of steps the government, businesses and citizens could take to reduce the environmental impacts of de-icing.

“Our goal is not to say, ‘Stop using salt,’" said Will Isenberg, a water quality specialist in the DEQ’s Watershed Programs and Office of Ecology. “Our goal is to try to strike a balance [between the safety benefits of de-icing and its harmful impacts].”

The strategy lays out more than 400 pages of background and dozens of suggestions for how everyone, from municipal snowplow drivers and snow-removal contractors to homeowners, can reduce wintertime salt use without sacrificing safety.

Work on the toolkit began three years ago, after state regulators imposed a “pollution diet” on stretches of Accotink Creek because of excessive chloride levels there in winter. Under that diet, or total maximum daily load in regulatory lingo, Fairfax County is under orders to take steps to restore water quality. . ."

Read the full article at the Bay Journal


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