Evaluation of Environmental Impacts of Potassium Acetate Used as a Road Salt Alternative

Principal Investigator(s):

John Gulliver, Professor Emeritus, Civil, Environmental and Geo-Engineering


Project summary:

Chloride-based salts have been used for decades in Minnesota as an effective snow and ice management technique for winter roads, parking lots, and sidewalks. Although an effective deicer, chloride-based salts have negative environmental consequences, including corrosiveness to steel, the elevation of chloride levels in nearby water bodies, and the breakdown of soil. To improve water quality and mitigate the overall cost of road salt, an effective alternative is needed. One alternative considered to have potential is potassium acetate (KAc), which is effective at lower temperatures than chloride-based salts and is much less corrosive to steel. KAc, however, has a biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and has documented toxicity at given concentrations to some living organisms. This project will involve the collection of field samples of meltwater and road runoff at various locations to determine levels of KAc and dissolved oxygen (DO) so that the impact of KAc on BOD may be investigated. Also, through new experimental work, the toxicity of KAc to aquatic and terrestrial flora and fauna at the observed concentrations will be investigated. Finally, the project will model the fate of KAc as it leaves the roadway in stormwater runoff or snowmelt and is conveyed across soil and into receiving water bodies. The model will incorporate the degradation of KAc and the depletion of DO in runoff water, soil, and receiving water bodies with the overall objective of estimating the impact KAc application has on the DO levels of soils and nearby water bodies.

Project details: