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Salt vs Chloride: How divergent approaches to snow and ice removal material influence inconsistent policy and practice

Authors: Rebecca Kauten*, University of Iowa
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Environmental Perception, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: freshwater salinization, qualitative analysis, public policy
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This study compares perspectives on the topic of freshwater salinization across various public infrastructure management agencies in Midwestern U.S. states. A series of in-depth interviews conducted in 2018 elucidate divergent management strategies, personal opinions, and levels of regulation that define operational approaches to mitigate environmental effects. While “salt” may be considered a valuable tool for snow and ice removal, “chloride” is considered by others to be a pollutant of concern. These divergent attitudes toward the same material influence a dynamic decision-making system across political and jurisdictional boundaries. Regulation currently plays a role in agency operations, albeit inconsistently. Existing laws emphasize drinking water protection, and account for both household and industrial chloride sources. A stable ion by any other name, chloride is a commodity, generating billions of dollars for material suppliers throughout North America. Industry can play a significant role in solving what may ultimately become one of the most challenging water quality problems of the 21st Century.

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