Spotlights

Ellen Foley defends thesis on road salt impacts on urban lake water quality

Ellen Foley defends thesis on road salt impacts on urban lake water quality

On July 29, 2022, graduate student Ellen Foley defended her thesis, titled "The impacts of road salt on water quality and phosphorus dynamics in an urban lake". Her thesis committee members included AWRI professors Alan Steinman and Bopi Biddanda, and Carla Koretsky from Western Michigan University.

Ellen's research focused on Church Lake in Grand Rapids, MI, which receives large inputs of saline road deicer runoff from a nearby highway. The lake contains elevated concentrations of chloride ( a component of road salt) at the lake bottom and this dense saline layer prevented the lake from completely mixing during the study period, leading to low oxygen conditions in the deeper regions of the lake. Due to these conditions, extremely high concentrations of phosphorus were also measured near the lake bottom, suggesting internal phosphorus loading may have been occurring in the lake. Ellen conducted an incubation experiment under various oxygen and chloride treatments to further investigate the impacts of excess road salt on sediment phosphorus release. The results suggest that elevated salt concentrations have the potential to exacerbate internal phosphorus loading in lakes, which has implications for eutrophication and algal blooms. These findings will be important for informing a management strategy for Church Lake and other lakes experiencing impacts from elevated salt and nutrient concentrations. 

Ellen now works at Leeward Renewable Energy in Chicago, IL as a Development Associate for utility-scale renewable energy projects. The position undertakes the work from conception to construction of a renewable project, including securing land rights from landowners, executing environmental studies to acquire permits, and obtaining interconnection agreements. 

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Page last modified August 2, 2022