In metropolitan Milwaukee, road salt, or sodium chloride, and other melting agents wash into urban streams at levels that potentially kill fish and other aquatic life until it passes.
Last year, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey found that water quality at seven of 12 streams in metropolitan Milwaukee showed signs of acute toxicity on fathead minnows and a type of water flea after two storms on Feb. 26 and March 7. Scientist Steve Corsi said the findings of chloride concentrations exceeded the EPA's toxic standard of 850 parts per million on the Kinnickinnic, Menomonee and Root rivers and on Honey, Underwood, Lincoln and Little Menomonee creeks.
The expanded freeways that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation wants to build will require more road salt. More salt, more toxicity, more dead fish and more dead streams. WisDOT, in its draft environmental impact statement for the proposed, unfunded $1.9 billion North-South I-94 freeway reconstruction and expansion plan, said very little about how it would treat polluted runoff, and did not mention the impacts of road salt at all.
It did say that expanding the freeway would only minimally improve traffic flow.
Are the tradeoffs worth it?