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Environmental Impacts of Potassium Acetate as a Road Salt Alternative (Iowa State University)

Status:  Complete
Report Date:  09/06/2022


Because of its potential environmental benefits, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is exploring the use of potassium acetate (KAc) to significantly reduce using chloride-based deicers in controlling snow and ice on roads. This study evaluated the environmental impact of KAc as a deicer including its effects on water quality and the resulting toxicity to biota. Researchers assessed KAc through field measurements, laboratory experiments, and modeling. Field sites, including bridges and tunnels, were selected to investigate a range of conditions, and sampling characterized KAc concentrations in soil and water as well as measured dissolved oxygen, biochemical oxygen demand, pH, and other water-quality parameters. Laboratory experiments investigated the persistence of KAc and its microbial toxicity at higher resolution than possible in field sampling. To predict the spatial and temporal extent of KAc’s environmental effects, models of the fate and transport of KAc in runoff to streams and lakes were constructed and evaluated. A detailed user’s manual for the models is provided as an appendix in the final report. The researchers recommend that the two models, KAcStream and KAcLake, be used by MnDOT to guide its choice of sites and concentrations of KAc deicer applications. These models also allow for initial estimates of the environmental impact of KAc applications.

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