PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Another winter storm means more salt on the roads — salt that will ultimately wash into the area’s waterways.

What happens when thousands of tons of road salt finds its way into local streams?

We put that question to Dr. Christopher Crockett, director of planning and research for the Philadelphia Water Department.

“Really, the first impact from that would be on aquatic life,” Crockett says. “And that’s really where the first impacts would be seen. They’re the most sensitive to the sodium chloride out there on the streets and sidewalks.”

Crockett says high levels of chloride can be a stressor on fish, to the point where they won’t reproduce.

But salt in the water is a long-term concern, Crockett says.

“Though there may be acute instances where a drinking water facility or municipality would be impacted where they would have to shut down for a day or switch to another source, this is really a long-term, 25 to 50 year or even 100-year issue.”

He adds that governments are increasingly going to need to balance the need for clear roads versus clear water.

Reported by Mike DeNardo, KYW Newsradio