Numerical Investigation of Road Salt Impact on an Urban Wellfield

Authors

  • M.L. Bester,

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    • Department of Earth Sciences, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1.

    • Currently at the University of Stuttgart, Germany.

  • E.O. Frind,

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    • Department of Earth Sciences, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1.

  • J.W. Molson,

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    • Department of Earth Sciences, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1.

    • Department of Civil, Geological and Mining Engineering, École Polytechnique, P.O. Box 6079, Station Centre-ville, Montréal, Quebec, Canada H3C 3A7.

  • D.L. Rudolph

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    • Department of Earth Sciences, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1.


Corresponding author: (514) 340-4711 x5189; fax (514) 340-4477; john.molson@polymtl.ca

Abstract

The impact of road salt on a wellfield in a complex glacial moraine aquifer system is studied by numerical simulation. The moraine underlies an extensive urban and industrial landscape, which draws its water supply from >20 wellfields, several of which are approaching or have exceeded the drinking water limit for chloride. The study investigates the mechanisms of road salt infiltration, storage, and transport in the subsurface and assesses the effectiveness of mitigation measures designed to reduce the impact. The three-dimensional transport model accounts for increases in salt loading, as well as growth of the urbanized area and road network over the past 50 years. The simulations, which focus on one impacted wellfield, show chloride plumes originating mainly at arterial roads and migrating through aquitard windows into the water supply aquifers. The results suggest that the aquifer system contains a large and heterogeneously distributed mass of chloride and that concentrations in the aquifer can be substantially higher than the concentrations in the well water. Future impact scenarios indicate that although the system responds rapidly to reductions in salt loading, the residual chloride mass may take decades to flush out, even if road salting were discontinued. The implications with respect to urban wellfields in typical snow-belt areas are discussed.

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