Mag chloride study to focus on runoff into Roaring Fork |

Mag chloride study to focus on runoff into Roaring Fork

A water-quality study on the Roaring Fork River will be conducted to determine whether the controversial road de-icer and dust suppressant magnesium chloride is endangering the health of the river.

The study – which is scheduled to begin today and continue through June 2000 – will use two water-quality monitoring devices placed at different points along the river to conduct a battery of tests, according to a press release from the United States Geological Survey.

Determining the occurrence of magnesium and chloride in the river, resulting from de-icing of roadways, is the primary goal of the study, the USGS said. Both elements may inhibit aquatic plant growth and adversely impact other aquatic life.

In the last year, Aspen, Snowmass Village and Basalt have made commitments to curtail mag chloride use on roadways – until more is known about the compound – however, the liquid de-icer is still used by the Colorado Department of Transportation on state roadways, like Highway 82.

One water-quality monitoring device will be installed near Difficult Campground, located a few miles east of Aspen, the USGS said. The locale will serve as the “control” site in the study, since it is located upstream of areas that may be impacted by mag chloride-induced snowmelt farther down the valley, according to the USGS.

Waterman Bridge in Basalt will be the locale for the second, downstream monitoring device.

Using the two devices, researchers hope to “evaluate the occurrence of dissolved magnesium and chloride associated with runoff from roads,” the USGS said.

Both monitoring devices will collect information – data such as water temperature, specific conductance, dissolved chloride readings, pH readings, dissolved oxygen levels and ion counts – on an hourly basis, making data from specific runoff events easily discernible, the USGS said.

The cooperative study is being orchestrated by the USGS, the Roaring Fork Conservancy, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado Association of Ski Towns, the towns of Aspen and Basalt, as well as other agencies and municipalities.

The Waterman Bridge water quality-monitoring device will be installed at 2 p.m. today, according to the USGS.

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