Mobilization of Roadside Soil Cation Pools by Exchange with Road Deicers

Monday, 15 December 2014
Robert Rossi and Daniel Bain, University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh Campus, Pittsburgh, PA, United States
Over the past sixty years, road deicers (i.e., road salt) have been applied to roadways in high latitudes to improve traffic conditions in winter weather. However, the dissolution of road deicers in highway runoff create waters with high total dissolved solids (TDS), specifically high concentrations of sodium, which can mobilize soil metals via soil cation exchange reactions. While several studies have detailed the interactions of high TDS solutions and surface and ground waters, limited attention is paid to the impacts of high TDS solutions on near-road soils. Between 2013 and 2014, soil water samples were collected from a roadside transect of lysimeter nests in Pittsburgh, PA. Soil water samples were analyzed for metal concentrations and resulting data used to examine cation dynamics. Patterns in soil water calcium and magnesium concentrations follow patterns in soil water sodium concentrations. In our samples, the highest major cation concentrations are found at the deepest lysimeters, suggesting major cations are mobilized to, and potentially accumulate in, deeper soil horizons. Concentration peaks in the downslope soil waters lag concentration peaks at the near-road nest by two months, indicating that road salt plumes persist and migrate following the road salting season. Characterizing the interactions of high TDS solutions and roadside soil cation pools clarifies our understanding of metal dynamics in the roadside environment. A deeper understanding of these processes is necessary to effectively restore and manage watersheds as high TDS solutions (i.e., road deicing, hydraulic fracturing, and marginal irrigation water) increasingly influence ecosystem function.