LONDON — As part of the upcoming construction of a frontage road near London in Laurel County, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) is beginning an education campaign for area businesses and residents regarding the use of salt to clear roads, parking lots and driveways, and the potential impact that can have on the local environment. Specifically, there is concern about how salt threatens endangered mussels in nearby waterways, including Mitchell Creek, Sinking Creek and the Rockcastle River.
Mitchell Creek feeds into Sinking Creek. Sinking Creek, which feeds into the Rockcastle River, has been declared the mussels’ critical habitat, an area that contains features essential for conserving a threatened species, but one which also requires special management.
Too much salt adversely impacts fish and other aquatic life that serve as the mussels’ food supply. Since mussels help keep the water clean, any harm to them means increased contamination in the creeks and river.
“Mussels can do a whole lot more than humans ever could to improve water quality,” said Ian Horn, a KYTC environmental biologist.
“The Rockcastle River is one of the most beautiful and pristine natural resources in the state and is part of the local watershed that is designated as a national outstanding water resource,” said Dave Harmon, with KYTC’s Division of Environmental Analysis. “It’s a major tourist attraction for the region, so protecting it is crucial, not just for its natural beauty and aquatic life, but also for its importance to the local economy.”
The salt education campaign is being conducted because salting in the area is done mostly by the local government, private businesses and residents. KYTC is only responsible for salting Interstate 75 and a small section of KY 80.
“Salt is really only effective down to a certain temperature,” Harmon said. “If it’s colder than 20 degrees, salt won’t do much good. It’s also easy to use too much salt. So, just knowing when to use salt and how much to use will help businesses and residents save money, in addition to helping protect this important natural resource.”
The new frontage road between I-75 exits 38 and 41 is designed to ease traffic congestion and provide easier access between north and south London. Construction began this past fall, with completion expected in the first half of 2016.