Could Brining Roads Be Bad For The Environment?

De-icing salt is sprayed onto a road.
De-icing salt is sprayed onto a road.
Credit Arno Balzarini / Associated Press
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The brine keeping roads from getting icy will eventually wash away, possibly into Atlanta’s streams and rivers.

Brine is just salt and water, but in cities up North, scientists have found that it can harm fish and aquatic plants.

“At a certain concentration, it starts to be damaging to aquatic organisms,” said Steve Corsi, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey. He recently published a study on salt accumulation in streams.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division says brining is not a problem here, since it’s used infrequently, and gets diluted.       

There hasn’t been much research on the effects of brine in the South, since winter storms are rare, said Jason Ulseth, the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.

“We do see spikes right after runoff events from the brining and the winter weather,” he said. “But we have not seen any direct environmental impact in terms of dead fish or any other of those impacts.”