Road Salt Initiatives

In winter 2022, FOSC launched two initiatives to assess the impact of road salt on Sligo Creek and its tributaries (Long Branch, Wheaton Branch, Takoma Branch and others). You may have read about how the use of road salt in the winter is hurting our waterways and, because salt cannot be removed by water treatment facilities, is ultimately affecting our drinking water. The Water Quality Committee wants to do something about it…with your help!

I. Testing Sligo Creek Salt Levels

To learn how salt is affecting the Creek, we participated in the Winter Salt Watch program of the Izaak Walton League. This national program uses easy-to-use test strips and the Water Reporter app to help track the impact of winter road salting and brining on local waterways.

In 2021-22, FOSC’s first winter salt testing season, we recruited ~20 volunteers to test Sligo Creek and its tributaries so that we could start to get an idea of the extent of the problem in the Sligo watershed.

1) If you’re interested in volunteering for the 2022-23 winter season, please read about the steps for monitoring on this Izaak Walton League webpage: Winter Salt Watch FAQs. We’ll provide the kits and further instructions.

2) Then, contact us at [email protected] to let us know youre interested. Before the season starts, we’ll help guide you in selecting a stream sampling location that you can safely and consistently access, since the salt testing program calls for several visits to a location at various times before, during, and after a winter snow or sleet event.

When you contact us, we’ll also arrange for you to get one or two kits to get started.

The data from these kits will complement data already being collected through FOSC’s monthly chloride monitoring, and USGS’s monitoring station near Maple Avenue. These results give FOSC, the Izaak Walton League, Montgomery County, and the state of Maryland a better picture of how road salt application affects Sligo Creek and its tributaries.

Note: There has been tremendous interest in this program for the 2021-2022 season.

Thanks for all your work! We are compiling the results into a single database, and with enough data will have some key numbers and findings up on this page in the next few weeks.

II. Reporting Excessive Salt Piles in the Sligo Watershed

To help reduce the amount of salt entering Sligo Creek, we’re piloting a FOSC reporting program for excessive road salt “piles” (such as the piles shown in the photos) in the Sligo watershed.

If you see an excessive amount of salt on the roadway, please email [email protected] with the day, time, and location of the salt pile. Photos are really helpful too. FOSC will try to get the excessive salt removed.

III. Data Reporting for salt testing results

We’re planning to post updates and to create maps of the testing results as the program generates data from several snow “events.”

The IWLA is providing the test kits for the FOSC road salt testing initiative. Thank you, IWLA.

The Winter Salt Watch logo of the Izaak Walton League of America
A set of large salt piles at Dallas Ave. near Sligo Creek

Large salt piles in a Dallas Ave intersection close to Sligo Creek. DOT removed them shortly after the FOSC Section Steward reported them.

An excessive road salt pile on a local roadway

A local salt pile, courtesy of Galella at UMD

Road salt sprinkled on snow-cleared roadway

Road salt sprinkled on snow-cleared roadway

IWLA Salt Kit - Guidance for Volunteer Salt Monitoring V2