Skip to main content

Toxicity of Chloride Under Winter Low-Flow Conditions in an Urban Watershed in Central Missouri, USA


Deicers such as sodium chloride and calcium chloride are used to treat snow and ice on road surfaces and have been identified as potential stressors on aquatic life. Hinkson Creek is an urban stream on the Missouri 303(d) list of impaired waters and is classified as impaired due to urban non-point source pollution. A 7-day toxicity test using Ceriodaphnia dubia was conducted to assess the toxicity of stream water during snowmelt at seven sites within the Hinkson Creek watershed. Chloride concentrations at two sites (Site 6, 1252 mg Cl/L; Site 4, 301 mg Cl/L) exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chronic criterion (230 mg Cl/L). Survival (30 %) and total reproduction (6.9 young/adult) of C. dubia at Site 6 was significantly lower than survival (100 %) and total reproduction (30.4 young/adult) at Site 1 (reference site). Results indicate that chloride concentrations are elevated above water-quality criteria and that chloride may be a significant chemical stressor for macroinvertebrate communities during winter low-flow conditions in the Hinkson Creek watershed.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3


  1. American Public Health Association, American Water Works Association, and Water Environment Federation (APHA) (2005) Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater. American Public Health Association, Washington, DC

    Google Scholar 

  2. Kaushal SS, Groffman PM, Likens GE, Belt, KT, Stack WP, Kelly VR, Band LE, Fisher GT (2005) Increased salinization of fresh water in the northeastern United States. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 102(38):13517–13520. Accessed December 27, 2011

  3. Benbow EM, Merrit RW (2004) Road salt toxicity of select Michigan wetland macroinvertebrates under different testing conditions. Wetlands 24:68–76

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Corsi SR, Graczyk DJ, Geis SW, Booth NL, Richards KD (2010) A fresh look at road salt: aquatic toxicity and water-quality impacts on local, regional, and national scale. Environ Sci Tech 44(10):7376–7382

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Daley ML, McDowell WH, Potter JD (2009) Salinization of urbanizing New Hampshire streams and groundwater: effects of road salt and hydrologic variability. J N American Benthol Soc 28(4):929–940

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Elphick JRF, Bergh KD, Bailey HC (2011) Chronic toxicity of chloride to freshwater species: effects of hardness and implications for water quality guidelines. Environ Toxicol Chem 30(1):239–246

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) (2011) USGS 06910230 Hinkson Creek stream gage at Columbia, MO. Accessed December 28, 2011

  8. Health Canada (1999) Canadian Environmental Protection Act- priority substances list assessment report for road salts; Accessed December 27, 2011

  9. Hecnar S, Sanzo D (2006) Effects of road de-icing salt (NaCl) on larval wood frogs (Rana sylvatica). Environ Pollut 140:247–256

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Hochberg Y, Tamhane AC (1987) Multiple comparison procedures. Wiley, New York

    Book  Google Scholar 

  11. Iowa Department of Natural Resource (2009) Water quality standards review: chloride, sulfate, and total dissolved solids. Iowa Department of Natural Resources.;tabid=1302. Accessed December 29, 2011

  12. Kelly WR, Panno SV, Hackley KC, Hwang HH, Martinsek AT, Markus M (2010) Using chloride and other ions to trace sewage and road salt in the Illinois Waterway. Appl Geochem 25:661–673

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) (2002–2004) Biological assessment report for Hinkson Creek, Boone County, MO, Phase I. p 29 + appendices. Accessed January 4, 2012

  14. Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) (2004–2005) Biological assessment report for Hinkson Creek, Boone County, MO, Phase II. p 42 + appendices. Accessed January 4, 2012

  15. Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) (2005–2006) Biological assessment report for Hinkson Creek, Boone County, MO, Phase III. p 35 + appendices. Accessed January 4, 2012

  16. Mount DR, Gulley DD, Russell J, Hockett T, Garrison TD, Evans JM (1997) Statistical models to predict the toxicity of major ions to Ceridaphnia dubia, Daphnia magna and Pimephales promelas (fathead minnows). Environ Toxicol Chem 16(10):2009–2019

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Nagpal NK, Levy DA, MacDonald DD (2003) Water quality: Ambient water quality guidelines for chloride- Overview report. Ministry of Environment, British Columbia, Canada. Accessed December 28, 2011

  18. Statistical Analysis System (2008) SAS/STAT 9.2 users guide, second edition. SAS Institute, Cary, North Carolina

  19. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) (1988) Ambient water criteria for chloride, EPA-440/5-88-001. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC

    Google Scholar 

  20. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) (2002) Methods for measuring the acute toxicity of effluents and receiving waters to freshwater and marine organisms, fourth ed. EPA-821-R-02-013. US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC

  21. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) (2011) Total maximum daily load: Hinkson Creek, Boone County, Missouri. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Kansas City, KS?

Download references


L. Johnson and S. Olson assisted with the field collections, laboratory testing, and manuscript. M. Stuckhoff developed Fig. 1. This manuscript has been reviewed in accordance with U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) policy.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ann L. Allert.

Additional information

All procedures conformed to the USGS guidelines for the humane treatment of test organisms during culture and experimentation. Use of trade names does not constitute USGS or U.S. Government endorsement.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (DOC 67 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Allert, A.L., Cole-Neal, C.L. & Fairchild, J.F. Toxicity of Chloride Under Winter Low-Flow Conditions in an Urban Watershed in Central Missouri, USA. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 89, 296–301 (2012).

Download citation


  • Urban streams
  • Snowmelt
  • Chloride toxicity
  • Ceriodaphnia dubia