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Risk Assessment of Artificial Snow Production on Water Quality and Alpine Hydrology By, Taylor Kravits, Francis Oggeri, Jason Scholz-Karabakakis, Andrew.

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Presentation on theme: "Risk Assessment of Artificial Snow Production on Water Quality and Alpine Hydrology By, Taylor Kravits, Francis Oggeri, Jason Scholz-Karabakakis, Andrew."— Presentation transcript:

1 Risk Assessment of Artificial Snow Production on Water Quality and Alpine Hydrology By, Taylor Kravits, Francis Oggeri, Jason Scholz-Karabakakis, Andrew Shaw, and Willa Capobianco

2 Introduction Our goal is to determine possible risks on stream water quality and macroinvertebrate communities from snow making additives, water withdrawal requirements, and salts applied. What are the additives being used? What are the effects these could have? How much water is being used? What is the effect of water withdrawals?

3 Objectives Determine what types of major snow additives are used in artificial snow production Estimate yearly loads of additives on a watershed Establish risks associated with chemical groups found in additives and racing salts on stream water quality and aquatic communities. Identify volume of water withdrawn for artificial snow production. Formulate recommendations for improving and reducing risk associated with producing and maintaining artificial snow.

4 Methods A comprehensive review was completed on the available literature regarding artificial snow production, snow additives, MSDS reports, and available toxicological data. Ski resorts were also contacted through a survey to find out more on water withdrawal and what additives are used. Water withdrawal values were gathered from state annual reports and surveys. We talked with Brian Fitzgerald, Streamflow Protection Coordinator, at the Agency of Natural Resources about water withdrawal

5 Artificial Snow Methods What chemical additives are in snowmaking? 1. Drift 2. Snowmax 3. Racing salts Effects of each chemical using MSDS and EPA reports How much chemical is in snow? Including dilution Show in Excel how much for entire ski area How much chemical gets into stream/groundwater per ski area per season? Effects on micro organisms. Short term and long term

6 Areas of Study (all in Vermont) Killington 1,209 acres 70% of Mtn -- snowmaking Teal lines are impaired rivers from 2010 VT report on water quality (VDEC, 2010)

7 Areas of Study Mt. Snow 588 acres 80% snowmaking

8 Areas of Study Smugg's 1000 acres 60% of Mtn- snowmaking

9 Areas of Study Sugarbush 508 acres 70% of Mtn-- snowmaking

10 Findings When asked through survey, ski resorts declined to respond to whether or not they apply additives to their snow. A list of additives that have potential use for these ski resorts are Drift, various types of salts, and Snowmax.


12 Drift Taken from

13 Amount added Approx 1140 Gallons of drift used per year for Sugarbush. Based on 1994 data. Water withdrawl 380,000,000

14 Drift Calculations Ski AreaWater usage mgal/hr gal/mDrift gal/d Drift gal/year (4 months) Cambridge (Smuggs) Burke Dover (Mt. Snow) , Fayston (Mad River) Killington Ludlow: Okemo Stowe Stratton Warren (Sugarbush) Average: Based on 2005 USGS data. Estimated Water Withdrawals and Return Flows in Vermont in 2005 and 2020

15 Drift's impact on water quality Gathered from similar Polydimethlysiloxanes chemical groups and Aquatrols website Low toxicity High solubility Degraded by microbes Bond to clay particles Three gallon of drift per every million of water. LD50 for aquatic invertebrates 300~900 ppm No known effects, in recommended use Biggest worry is spills

16 Accidental Spills At 21% concentration toxic to aquatic organisms Possibly for long term effects but, no specifics Still biodegradable

17 Salts Are not used directly for artificial snow production Salts are used to improve snow quality for ski races and summer skiing. The application of salt are used to harden the surface of the snow by lowering the freezing point. This improves snow quality for racing and keeps the snow on the slopes longer during the summer months.

18 Common Salts used 1.Ammonium Nitrate - NH 4 NO 3 2.Ammonium Chloride - NH 4 Cl 3.Ammonium Sulphate - (NH 4 ) 2 SO 4 4.Potassium Chloride - KCl 5.Sodium Chloride- NaCl 6.Phosphates

19 Application of Salts Two studies addressed the amounts of salts used. On an Oregon snow field 500,000 kg of salts are applied from May to September. (Rixen 2003) On Horstman Glacier in British Columbia 90,020 kg of salts are applied from May to July. (Teichrob 2009).

20 Environmental Impacts of Salts Chlorides From the previous studies mentioned increased chloride and salt levels within the watersheds of both areas have been documented. Oregon Snowfield: From May to September streams within the drainage basin had chloride levels at 30 mg/l compared to streams with 1– 6 mg/l outside the drainage basin (Rixen 2003).

21 Environmental Impacts of Salts Horstman Glacier: From May to July Chloride concentrations averaged 57.2 mg/l within the drainage basin compared to <1mg/l average outside the basin (Teichrob 2009). Increasing chloride concentrations can be toxic to stream life, however EPA lists standards for acute and chronic levels at 860mg/L and 230mg/L. ndex.cfm

22 Environmental Impacts of Salts Phosphate Salts: 1. Increased algae blooms 2. Promote weeds and vegetation growth which can choke waterways and deplete oxygen levels. Ammonium Salts: 1. Water acidification 2. Cultural eutrophication (including occurrence of toxic algae) 3. Direct toxicity of inorganic nitrogenous compounds (ammonia, nitrite and nitrate) (Camargo 2006)

23 Road Salts as an Indicator for Environmental Impacts The salts used on the ski slopes are closely related to those used for deicing roads. Looking closely at studies done on road deicing salts can give insight into what environmental impacts may result due to increased salt application. In four New York Adirondack Mountain streams, chloride concentrations up to 31 times higher. In urban areas Chloride concentrations around 3000 mg/l were recorded Varying concentrations of chloride has been documented to have detrimental e ff ects on both the flora and fauna of aquatic ecosystems. (Blasius 2002)

24 Natural Snow Vs. Artificial Snow Source: Hydrosphere, 2002; cited in water control commission, 2003 Sample Source pH (Average) pH (Range) Total Alkalinity Mg/L, CaCO3 (Average) Total Alkalinity Mg/L, CaCO3 (Range) Dissolved Calcium mg/l (Average) Dissolved Calcium mg/l (Range) Natural Snow <2< Artificial Snow

25 Ammonium Impacts on Macroinvertebrates Laboratory study conducted in Europe found that increased concentrations of ammonium, nitrate, and the combination had a negative effect on macroinvertebrates (Berenzen et. al, 2000) Concentrations of 0.3 to 30 mg/L ammonium were studied and found that certain species were negatively affected at 3.0mg/L.

26 Snowmax Biological additive - Pseudomonas syringae. A inactivated protein from this common bacteria is used as an ice nucleation agent.

27 Risks of Pseudomonas syringae ? Has been determined to be safe to use by various studies. This bacteria may have natural global importance in the formation of rain and snow (Biello 2008). even so,


29 Recommendations for using Snowmax Wear protective gear, may cause irritation if concentrated. Use microbially clean water for snowmaking. Certain viruses can feed and multiply on the inactive bacteria. Use as directed and within 24 hours of mixing. (Lagriffoul et al, 2008)


31 Potential Impact on Water Quality MSDS - Often toxicological data is limited or unavailable. Spills - the possibility of spills poses the greatest threat of a point source risk. Increased water on ski piste can lead to: sedimentation, opacity, velocity, incision, and erosion. All of which impact water quality and habitat.

32 Water Withdrawal All the studied resorts in Vermont were found to withdraw their water for snow production from lakes or streams. Most ski resorts in Vermont create settling/retention ponds that collect water during times of high flow and do not withdraw water during periods of low flow (Brian Fitzgerald, personal communication, 2012). Average amount of water taken out for snowmaking for Mount Snow is approximately 240 million gallons a month. Information was taken from the survey sent out. However, there are strict regulations created by the state of Vermont that ski areas may not decrease the flow rate below February median flow (Brian, Fitzgerald, personal communication 2012).

33 Low risk!! Given the dilute concentrations of additives, the environmental risk is relatively low.

34 Recommendations Sugarbush's monitoring plan that evaluates the macroinvertebrate density and its improvement through better retention of stormwater that can be created from melting artificial snow

35 Recommendations Creating retention/settling ponds can help. This helps retain water in lakes/streams/rivers in periods of low flow. Ski resorts should strive for increasing annual efficiency with regard to water withdrawals Update outdated equipment. New technology for improving water efficiency in snowguns Only make snow when conditions such as temperature are right Take extra precautions when choosing and implementing additives. Some ski resorts most likely mix ingredients to obtain the best chemical additives for producing snow.

36 Conclusions Available research is limited, and as a precautionary measure, several steps can be taken to minimize the risk of uncertainties. Using snow additives does not pose a significant risk. However, unchecked water withdrawal rates does pose a risk These would be: limiting to additives that do not contain trade secret proprietary formulas, as third party testing is often non-existent, limited, or could be biased since lab safety testing is sponsored by the parent corporation. There are fewer uncertainties using biological or mineral compounds that play a natural role in snow/cloud formation.

37 Works Cited Berezen, N., Schulz, R., & Leiss, M. (2001). Effects of chronic ammonium and nitrate contamination on the macroinvertebrate community in running water microcosms. Pergamon, 35(14), Retrieved from /ft/1092/42810/ pdf Biello, David. "Do Microbes Make Snow?: Scientific American." Science News, Articles and Information. Luisiana State University, 28 Feb Web. 11 Apr Blasius, B. J., & Merritt, R. W. (2002). Field and laboratory investigations on the effects of road salt (nacl) on stream macroinvertebrate communities. Environmental Pollution, 120(2), 219–231. doi: Borgert, Christopher. Consulting toxicologist, Alachua, FL. Environmental Impact Summary. (2002) Aquatrols. Camargo, J. A., & Alonso, Á. (2006). Ecological and toxicological effects of inorganic nitrogen pollution in aquatic ecosystems: A global assessment. Environment International, 32(6), doi: /j.envint Lagriffoul et. al. (2010). Bacterial-based additives for the production of artificial snow: What are the risks to human health?. Science of the Total Environment, 408(7), doi: Organo-silicone Surfactant, Drift. MSDS No; Proprietary. Aquatrols. Online; September Rixen, C, Stoeckli, V, and Ammann, W. (2003). “Does artificial snow production affect soil and vegetation of ski pistes? A review”. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics. 5(4): Teichrob, N. D. (2009). The downstream eects of salt application on horstman glacer, whistler, british columbia. (Master's thesis, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)Retrieved from: Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. Water Quality Division, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. (2010). List of priority surface waters outside the scope of clean water act section 303(d)

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