Effects of the application of highway deicing chemicals during winter months on ground- water quality are being studied by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. Eight sites throughout the State were selected along major undivided highways where drainage is by open ditches and ground-water flow is approximately perpendicular to the highway. At these sites, records of deicer application rates are being kept and apparent movement of deicing chemicals through shallow, unconsolidated aquifers is being monitored by means of periodic measurements of specific con ductance and concentrations of dissolved sodium, calcium, and chloride. The counties and corre sponding sections of state routes being monitored are the following: State Route (SR) 3 in Ashland County, SR 84 in Ashtabula County, SR 29 in Champaign County, SR 4 in Clark County, SR 2 in Lucas County, SR 104 in Pickaway County, SR 14 in Portage County, and SR 97 in Richland County.
The study began in January 1988 with background data collection, extensive literature review, and site selection. This process, including drilling of wells at the eight selected sites, lasted 3 years. Routine ground-water sampling at 4- to 6-week intervals began in January 1991. A relatively new type of multilevel, passive flow ground-water sampling device was constructed and used. Other conditions monitored on a regular basis included ground-water level (monitored con tinuously), specific conductance, air and soil temperature, precipitation, chloride concentration in soil samples, ground conductivity, and deicing chemical application times and rates.
For the interim reporting period, water samples were collected from January 1991 through September 1993. Evidence from water analysis, specific conductance measurements, and surface geophysical measurements indicates that four of the eight sites (Ashtabula County, Lucas County, Portage County, and Richland County sites) are potentially affected by direct application of deic ing chemicals. Climatic data from the period January 1991 through September 1993 show that cold weather, and therefore deicing chemical application rates, varied widely across the State. As a consequence, only minor traces of dissolved chloride above background concentrations (mean, 12-25 mg/L) were determined in ground-water samples from the Pickaway County, Clark County, and Champaign County sites. At the Ashland and Richland County sites, dissolved chlo ride concentrations increased above background concentrations (from the upgradient well, pre sumably unaffected by road salt) only intermittently (mean background concentrations of 3-25 mg/L, rising to a mean of 49-77 mg/L). For the interim reporting period, the mean dissolved chloride concentration for all downgradient wells was about 2 times the background concentra tion (25mg/L) at the Ashland County site (50 mg/L) and 14 times the background concentration (3 mg/L) at the Richland County site (40 mg/L). At the Lucas County, Portage County, and Ash tabula County sites, deicing-chemical application was consistent throughout the winter, and downgradient dissolved chloride concentrations rarely returned to background concentrations (mean 6-32 mg/L) throughout the period. For the interim reporting period, the mean dissolved chloride concentration for all downgradient wells was about 3 times the background concentra tion at the Lucas County site (92 mg/L), 72 times the background concentration at the Portage County site (432 mg/L, 2 downgradient wells), and 21 times the background concentration at the Ashtabula County site (279 mg/L).
Other factors that may affect the movement of deicing chemicals through the aquifer were examined, such as precipitation amounts; the types of subsurface materials; ground-water velocity and gradient; hydraulic conductivity; soil type; land use; and ODOT deicing priority. A final report is planned for 2001 afte