U.S. Water News Online
AMHERST, Mass. -- A significant number of lakes and streams across Massachusetts show improved quality to cope with the effects of acid rain, according to results of a decade-long study conducted by the Acid Rain Monitoring (ARM) Project at the University of Massachusetts. A significant number of lakes and streams across Massachusetts show improved quality to cope with the effects of acid rain, according to results of a decade-long study conducted by the Acid Rain Monitoring (ARM) Project at the University of Massachusetts.
The report is based on testing of more than 40,000 water samples from 2,444 lakes and 1,670 streams gathered by 1,000 volunteers between 1983 and 1993. Seventy of 330 streams and 43 of 181 lakes were found to have increased their acid-neutralizing capacity during that period, according to Paul J. Godfrey, director of the Water Resources Research Center at UMass. At the same time, the findings show that most lakes and streams in Massachusetts exhibited no change during the 10-year study.
Implementation of state and federal clean air legislation has been responsible for helping reduce the effects of acid rain on Massachusetts streams and lakes, said Godfrey. Acid rain is the result of the release into the atmosphere of industrial pollutants such as sulfur from coal-burning power plants and other facilities. The particles fall back to the earth as acidic precipitation. Godfrey said the test results show some reason for optimism that the effects of acid rain can be minimized over the long term.
"These are relatively small changes, but they represent significant improvements rather than further deterioration of the acid status of our lakes and streams.," said Godfrey. "This is a positive sign that the clean air legislation was the right thing to do. The results show how important it is to maintain a continuous monitoring program of many lakes and streams. Such small trends could not be detected with programs which monitor fewer lakes and streams than the ARM project."
While results varied across the state, Godfrey said, streams in Hampshire, Franklin, and northern Berkshire counties, and lakes in central Massachusetts showed improvements in their ability to counteract the effects of acid precipitation. Lakes and streams in southeastern Massachusetts showed the largest decline in acid-neutralizing capacity, according to Godfrey, who added that acid precipitation is relatively uniform across the state, and that differences in water chemistry stem from underlying geology.
The study also found that road salt is having a significant effect on the state's streams and lakes. Godfrey said there is a strong correlation between the number of road miles in watersheds and the amount of sodium detected in the water.
"Simply put, road salting, particularly of state-managed roadways, seems to contribute at least 63 percent of the salt found in Massachusetts streams," he said.
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