An Analysis of Road Salting Impacts on Soil Salinity Along Two Rural Roadways

Faculty Sponsor

Jon-Paul McCool


Arts and Sciences



Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 5-3-2019


The practice of road salting to maintain safe winter road conditions can have potential negative impacts on soil salinity. The accumulation of salts can produce highly saline conditions in soils which pose a threat to vegetation by lowering a soil’s osmotic potential, thus making it difficult for both water and nutrient uptake by plant roots. In addition, it has been found that the retention of salts on a soil’s ion exchange sites, even in humid regions with rainfall sufficient to dissolve and wash away these salts, may threaten aquatic life due to sustained higher salinity levels in downstream waterways and waterbodies. This study seeks to analyze the impacts of road salting along two rural roadways in Northwest Indiana to determine whether road surface run-off and traffic spray produce a measurable difference in local soil salinity. Gridded soil cores taken along the shoulder and within adjacent agricultural fields are analyzed for electroconductivity and pH to determine salinity to test the effect of distance on salt contamination. Though it may be expected that salts would only effect soils in close proximity to roadways, studies have found spray from traffic can exhibit a continued observation of highly saline conditions.

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