A previously unrecognized but significant threat to healthy ecosystems and aquatic wildlife has emerged in the Great Lakes: chloride contamination. Chloride (salt) is accumulating at a staggering rate in flowing waters, drinking water, and groundwater in the Great Lakes system. The accumulation has significant impacts on aquatic habitats and species, effecting everything from fish to soil productivity.
© iStock / Brian Lasenby
The primary source of chloride in the environment is salt used to manage roads, parking lots, and sidewalks in the winter. Chloride is not filtered out through soils, taken up by plants, or removed by waste water treatment processes. It simply accumulates in our water sources.
© Jodi Cobb/National Geographic Stock / WWF-Canada
Despite its environmental impacts, winter salt use is necessary in the Great Lakes basin to ensure that public safety is maintained during winter months. We must find new techniques and technologies for road salt applications to ensure public safety while protecting our freshwater.
© Greg STOTT / WWF-Canada
WWF is working with governments, researchers, and the insurance and legal industries in Canada and the United States to develop best management practices and cooperative solutions to the increasingly worrisome chloride issue.