The annual Salt Symposium Chloride Reduction Leadership Award recognizes individuals and organizations who are leading the way in chloride reduction. This year, the Illinois State Water Survey’s (ISWS) groundwater science section, which includes Walt Kelly, Daniel Abrams, Devin Mannix, and Cecilia Cullen, was one of six recipients of this award. The mission of this section is to conduct research, collect and analyze data, provide a public service to Illinoisans about groundwater issues, and serve as the state's primary repository of groundwater records and data.
“It's a great honor to receive this recognition,” said Walt Kelly, head of the ISWS groundwater sciences section. “I've been working on the issue off and on for about 30 years. I'd say our main impact is getting local governments, primarily counties, to take notice of the looming threat and develop policies to ameliorate chloride contamination in surface water.”
In the late 1990s, ISWS began assessing groundwater quality data in the Chicago region to determine how chloride concentrations might be increasing with time due to road de-icing applications. The Water Survey conducted studies evaluating historical water quality, collecting data, conducting sampling in the region, and developing transport models to estimate chloride movement in the subsurface.
They discovered that nearly all water resources in the region – shallow groundwater, surface water, and wetlands – were being impacted by chloride. Recent data indicate that very high concentrations of chloride are still entering groundwater from stormwater detention features.
Published in more than 15 journal articles and various reports, ongoing ISWS research points to reducing road salt application to vastly reduce the amount of chloride getting into nearby surface waters. This research has been shared with water policy experts, water professionals, and other stakeholders in the Chicago region.
County planners have taken notice of the modeling studies and the damage being done to water quality because of these efforts and, as a result of increased awareness, various counties and municipalities in the region now practice sensible salting, including pre-application of brines and training of operators and more recent data. Trends are indicating that smart salting practices help reduce chloride inputs into groundwater.
“On behalf of the groundwater sciences section, we would like to thank all the scientists and stakeholders who have been involved in addressing this important water quality issue in the Chicago region,” said Kelly. “This effort has been a partnership of good science and policy to make a positive difference in improving water quality in the region. We thank you very much for recognizing the work of the Illinois State Water Survey.”
Media contact: Tiffany Jolley, firstname.lastname@example.org