Friday, February 26, 2010

To salt, or not to salt....

In the wake of yet another snow storm for Central Jersey, I feel constantly bombarded with road salt. I drive 33 miles to work each direction every day, so I want the roads to be clear and safe for my drive to work (or wherever else I need to go that day). I can't help but feel torn though, as I work in water resources, and I think about the other implications of road salt (not just the safer roads and high costs to municipalities and NJDOT). I'm talking about the waterways.

If you've ever been swimming in the ocean, you know that a mouthful of seawater does not taste good. There are plenty of aquatic organisms, including fish, that face this every time we get a snow storm and use road salt. These salty freshwater bodies won't have the same 35 parts per million concentration at ocean water, but it is enough to make a difference. Salty streams, rivers, and lakes can lead to contaminated groundwater (affecting wells), and also can affect public water supplies.

When I was a NJ Watershed Ambassador, I conducted one of my visual and biological assessments on the Peters Brook in Somerville just one day after a snow storm. We use macroinvertebrates (read: aquatic bugs) as indicators of stream health. The Peters Brook does not usually score well in this area for many reasons (urbanization, lots of impervious cover, etc). On this particular day in December 2008, I had found mostly tolerant species, meaning that they can handle some water pollution, but I had also come across a few sensitive species--meaning that they can handle a bit of water pollution, but not as much as the tolerant species (I found no intolerant species--which can handle little to no pollution at all). The odd thing was that the sensitive species, the sowbugs, were all dead. I've never had an entire group of macros be dead upon sampling before. The only explanation is that the roads had just been salted, and the snow melted enough to send some of that salt into the Peters Brook, which killed the sowbugs.

Safety is of the utmost concern, so make sure that your driveways, walkways and roadways are clear and safe. There are alternatives out there that have less of an effect on the environment. Calcium chloride and magnesium chloride are the most popular alternatives, which usually require less amount per area of application than traditional sodium chloride and they work at lower temperatures; however, they are often more expensive.

Check out more information on road salt from the Salt Institute or this article from the Star Ledger from Feb 15th.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Freshwater Fish Trivia!

It has been a very long time since I have updated the blog (and I have missed several weeks for the Photo of the Week).

While I work on finding a good photo by the end of this week, Ken gave me some freshwater fishing trivia questions!

1. Which type of Sunfish is common to all 50 states?
a. Pumpkinseeds
b. Bluegills
c. Redears

2. Rainbow trout are originally from what region of the US?
a. Pacific Coast
b. South West
c. North East

3. Which is not a typical food for a Largemouth bass?
a. Crayfish
b. Frogs
c. Bats

4. The world record Muskellunge with a weight of 69 lbs 11 oz was caught in which state?
a. Maine
b. Ohio
c. Wisconsin

5. Trolling would not be used on which body of water?
a. Lake
b. Stream
c. River

Good luck!

Answers are posted in the comments section!