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UW-Madison prof to present road salt’s impact on lakes April 4

March 21, 2018

Tons of salt are dumped on our roads and sidewalks every winter to help prevent slips, falls and vehicle accidents.

But what happens when the snow melts and the salt drains into our lakes?

University of Wisconsin – Madison Limnologist Hilary Dugan has been researching that question for years and will give the free talk Salting Our Freshwater Lakes from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Wednesday, April 4, in the Nicolet College Theatre.

The presentation is part of Nicolet’s Learning in Retirement Ced Vig Nature Series.

Dugan examined the long-term effect of run-off salt, also known as sodium chloride, in more than 500 lakes in North America and Europe, including many in Wisconsin.

“Road salt is often thought of as an ‘environmentally safe’ chemical,” Dugan explained. “However, at high concentrations, chloride can alter aquatic ecosystems by stressing freshwater species, and deteriorate drinking water sources. For more than 70 years, we’ve applied road salt to paved surfaces, without any regard for the environmental consequences.”

Dugan will focus on long-term chloride trends and the state of our lakes across the Midwest and Northeast United States with regard to chloride contamination, how our lakes in Wisconsin are faring, and what is currently being done locally to curtail further environmental damage.

In 2017, Dugan had the results of her study, Salting Our Freshwater Lakes, published in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

She’s an assistant professor at the Center for Limnology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. As a limnologist, Dugan studies how terrestrial and atmospheric changes, such as warming air temperatures or land use patterns, alter aquatic processes in lakes. Her research focus is on temperate and polar lakes, with sites spanning from Wisconsin to Antarctica.

Click here for more information about Nicolet’s Learning in Retirement program, including other upcoming offerings, or call (715) 365-4491, 1-800-544-3039, ext. 4491; TTY 1-800-946-3529 or 711 relay.