BALTIMORE (WJZ) — When the signs warned of possible icy conditions this winter, state highways started prepping.

Before a February storm, SHA spokesman Charlie Gischler said “It’s going to be a salting operation. In some areas, we’ll use the liquid brine only instead of the granular salt. That’ll do the trick in these kind of temperatures,”

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The use of brine to pre-treat roads has been growing, even as the use of old fashioned salt has been decreasing.

By wetting salt to keep it from bouncing off the road, along with better forecasts and roadway temperature sensors, state highways have cut the use of salt by 50-percent over the last five years.

And that is good news for Maryland’s streams and rivers.

“Well, it can lead to fish kills. There are a couple of dozen streams in Maryland that have high levels of salts,” said the Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles.

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Salt usually enters waterways dissolved in snowmelt or rain. It can also impact freshwater vegetation and beneficial insects, a food source for birds and fish.

Reducing salt is not only good for streams and rivers.

“It’s a drinking water issue as well, and our drinking water facilities throughout the state have to invest more to treat drinking water,” Grumbles said.

It’s a balancing act to use just enough salt, not too much.

“It’s good for the environment and it keeps the roads safe,” Grumbles said.

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