Road Salt Deicers as Contaminants in the Environment
Battifarano, Oriana. “Road Salt Deicers as Contaminants in the Environment”, Boston College, 2020. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/bc-ir:108941.
Over 10 million tons of deicers are applied on impervious surfaces during winter storms in the United States every year to create safer driving and walking conditions. Road salt, or sodium chloride, is the most common deicer due to its low price and wide availability. Increasing concentrations of sodium chloride (NaCl) over the past decades have been measured in surface waters and groundwater throughout North America and it is projected to continue increasing. As there are no cost effective alternatives available to road salt, its potential role as an environmental and drinking water contaminant needs to be investigated. Field measurements from previous studies reveal the homogenization of NaCl in the subsurface through consistent elevated levels year-round. Through the integration of field and laboratory methods, this thesis aims to investigate the role of subsurface processes in the transport and pathways of deicers from the point of deposition to eventual emergence in surface waters and its potential impact on drinking water supplies. To understand the contamination pathways of NaCl that result in the observed surface water concentrations, experimental simulations were designed that indicate that gravitational/convective processes are the most important initial processes influencing deicer transport, but that other processes such as diffusion, surface tension, and dispersion/advection also play important roles.