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  • 08 Dec 2017 8:44 AM | Lee Gould (Administrator)

    http://theconversation.com/road-salt-is-bad-for-the-environment-so-why-do-we-keep-using-it-87860

    Marshes, streams and lakes lie alongside many of the roads and highways that zigzag across North America. Plants and animals inhabit these water bodies and can be exposed to many of the substances we put on those roads, including road salt.

    Rock salt helps keep roads safe when winter storms hit, reducing winter road accidents. But it can also have serious, negative effects on aquatic ecosystems.

    At high concentrations, salt can be fatal to some aquatic animals. Salt can also change the way the water mixes and lead to the formation of salty pockets near the bottom of lakes, creating biological dead zones.

    When the weather takes a wintry turn, many cities and municipalities in North America rely on salt to deice their roads. This rock salt is similar to table salt, made up of sodium and chloride, but coarser. It dissolves quickly on the road, leaving the chloride to enter nearby waters through runoff and leaching. In fact, almost all chloride ions from the road salt eventually find their way into waterways downstream.

    At low concentrations, chloride is relatively benign but as concentrations rise, it can be toxic to aquatic wildlife, including the plankton and fish that inhabit inland lakes. These ecological changes affect water quality.

    In salt water

    One study of North American lakes found that as little as one per cent of the land area within 500 metres of the lake had to be paved (or otherwise impervious) for there to be an increased risk of becoming saltier over the longterm.

    Basically, a little development can lead to a lot of salt entering a water body. About 27 per cent of large lakes in the United States are at least one per cent developed along their shores.

    recent study suggests that salt concentrations in many U.S. lakes will fall outside the bounds necessary for healthy aquatic plants, animals and microorganisms — and for good-tasting drinking water — by 2050.

    Canada will likely face the same issues. Depending on the severity of the winter, approximately five million tonnes of road salt are applied annually to Canadian roads. Many municipalities in southern Ontario use more than 100,000 tonnes per year.

    Road salt applications in Canada began in the 1950s. To fully understand how these increasing chloride concentrations have affected lake ecosystems, we must look back in time. But there’s little long-term data about these lakes for us to look at.

    Instead, we examine past environmental conditions by coring into the lake bottoms and using the information preserved in the lake sediments.

    A window into the past

    Clay, silt, sand, pollen, chemicals and other substances from the surrounding environment accumulate slowly — and continuously — in layers at the bottom of lakes. That sediment provides a natural archive of past conditions. For example, a layer with a lot of charcoal may indicate increased forest fires in the region.

    Scientists use the information preserved in this archive to understand how environmental conditions have changed over long periods of time — from years to centuries.

    The Muskoka region of central Ontario — known for its lakes, rivers and cottages — has been applying road salt since the 1950s. The remains of algae and microscopic animals (called zooplankton) contained within the region’s lake sediments show us that changes have occurred in these lakes, coinciding with the onset of road salt applications in the region.

    There are more salt-tolerant zooplankton species now than there were before road salt was widely used. The effect of that shift isn’t fully understood. But we do know that when things change at the lower levels of the food web, the effects may be felt through the whole ecosystem.

    Consider, for example, a fish that has become adapted to eating one type of zooplankton. If all of a sudden it is replaced by another type — perhaps one that is larger — it may run into trouble.

    Chloride can be toxic to zooplankton. At lower concentrations it can have sub-lethal effects — weakening individuals and raising rates of egg mortality. Fish are generally more tolerant to increasing salt concentrations, but the longer they are exposed to high chloride levels, the more toxic it is. Many young fish feed on plankton and if they lose their food source, they will not thrive.

    Brine alternatives

    Some communities in North America are looking for environmentally safe alternatives to road salt.

    Beet wastewater — left over from sugar beet processing — cheese brine, pickle juice and potato juice are some of the unconventional deicers being tested.

    The carbohydrates or sugars in beet wastewater make it more effective at lower temperatures than salt water or brine alone, lowering the melting point of the ice to below -20℃ from -10℃ — and reducing the amount of chloride applied to the road.

    But there are downsides. Some communities dislike the smell of the beet wastewater, which people have likened to soy sauce, molasses or stale coffee. It also adds sugar to aquatic ecosystems, which may encourage bacterial growth.

    Instead of using salt and salt additives, some engineers are experimenting with roads that clear themselves of snow and ice. Early tests have suggested that solar panels could replace asphalt to melt ice and eliminate the need for road salt, by heating water in pipes embedded in the road.

    Others are looking for more effective ways to use rock salt — and reduce the amount that enters water ecosystems. A significant portion of rock salt bounces off the road when it’s applied so trucks tend to apply more than necessary. Wetting the pavement and applying brine solutions help the salt adhere to the road, meaning cities and municipalities can cut back on how much they use.

    Scientists are also helping to figure out how much salt our lakes can handle, which species are at risk and which lakes are most sensitive to road salt exposure to find a way to keep humans safe on the road and plants and animals safe in our lakes, streams and wetlands.

  • 28 Nov 2017 2:06 PM | Lee Gould (Administrator)

    Through 2016 and beyond and with support from the Province of Ontario, the Smart About Salt Council (SASC) was pleased to be able to review and update its award-winning in-class “Essentials of Salt Management” professional training for winter maintenance contractors and facility owners and operators. In so doing the SASC met a long-understood need to expand its training platform to embrace online delivery.

    Using preferred procurement (request for proposals (RFP), the SASC secured the assistance of qualified vendor to build a stand-alone training Website.

    Those wishing to enroll in SASC online training efforts can register at www.smartaboutsalt.com for any or all of thirteen (13) teaching modules available in either English or French. To complete an online course a fourteenth review and exam module needs to be successfully completed. In-class training (including time for an exam) usually take eight (8) hours but following a successful beta testing period that involved the Lake Simcoe Regional Conservation Authority (LSRCA) students appear to be averaging six and a half (6.5) hours to complete the online course.

    Upon completion registrants receive an email from the training system but should also expect a certificate emailed from Smart About Salt Council.

    Since leading practices in winter maintenance change and SASC is constantly striving to update its efforts “Certified Trained” status is recognized by SASC for three (3) years but can be extended for an additional two (2) years upon successful completion of an online refresher course.

    On behalf of our Members, supporters, stakeholders and collaborators, the Smart About Salt Council would like to thank the Province of Ontario, especially the Minster of the Environment and Climate Change (MoECC) for their collaboration and support in helping Smart About Salt Council to continue to protect freshwater resources in Ontario and beyond by helping industry, government and others adopt leading practice in winter maintenance and reduce their use of chlorides (salts) while maintaining safety.

    To learn more visit www.smartaboutsalt.com or email contact@smartaboutsalt.com.


  • 23 Nov 2017 6:35 AM | Lee Gould (Administrator)

    https://www.castanet.net/news/BC/212141/Beet-juice-battles-road-ice

    Last year, 500,000 litres of beet juice was sprayed on the Coquihalla Highway.

    The unlikely tool has been used by VSA Highway Maintenance on the notorious mountain pass in an attempt to keep ice at bay.

    Salt brine liquid is used as a preventive measure to keep roads from icing, but it's only effective down to -5 C. When mixed with beet molasses, it lowers the brine's effective temperature down to about -15 C.

    Chuck Gallacher, vice-president of Premium Canada, the Lake Country-based distributor of the beet product, says the Coquihalla has been used as a pilot project for the technology, and it has been adopted by several municipalities this winter.

    The molasses is a byproduct of the process of removing sugar from beets. Premium Canada imports the product from Nampa, Idaho. 

    In addition to lowering the effective temperature of the brine, the sticky molasses helps keep sand and salt on the road. Without the beet additive, Gallacher says 70 per cent of solid products applied to roads ends up bouncing into the ditch.

    Liquid products like magnesium chloride and calcium chloride can be used at temperatures, down to -30 C, but are more expensive than salt brine, and can have environmental consequences if overused.

    “Salt brine is so much cheaper than those other liquids, and so the beet juice piece comes in by being able to supplement your salt brine and basically duplicate the performance of a higher-priced chloride product,” Gallacher said.

    Williams Lake and Merritt have also used beets on their roads, in addition to cities in Ontario and Quebec.

    “It's just being introduced really by us to cities this winter,” Gallacher he said.

    - |

  • 21 Nov 2017 6:54 PM | Lee Gould (Administrator)

    https://www.muskokaregion.com/news-story/7935685-smart-about-salt-could-force-contractor-certification-in-muskoka/

    MUSKOKA — Anyone applying road salt in Muskoka may soon have to get schooled.

    Dr. Norman Yan, an aquatic ecotoxicologist, and Tim Kearney, a retired contractor, on behalf of the Friends of the Muskoka Watershed have pitched winter salt management program Smart About Salt to receptive engineering and public works committee members at the District of Muskoka.

    The program, created by a not-for-profit council formed by the Region of Waterloo, Landscape Ontario Horticultural Trades Association, the Building Owners and Managers Association of Ottawa and the Ontario Good Roads Association, aims to protect fresh water from winter salt and, among other initiatives, offers a one-day salt awareness and education program to certify those in the snow and ice control business, including contractors, supervisors, property owners, facility managers and more.

    “We all know that millions of tonnes of salt are added to roads, parking lots and other surfaces in Canada,” said Yan. “This happens in Muskoka.”

    He noted salt does not stay in one place — it gets washed into lakes, rivers and other water bodies by rain and melt — and chloride levels in lakes near winter maintained roads and facilities had increased in Muskoka, with levels above 10 milligrams per litre now fairly common.

    And a few sat around 100 mg/L, he said.

    He noted the Canadian water quality guideline for chloride listed 120mg/L as its threshold, which Muskoka lakes sit below.

    But he said that guideline was based on studies done in hard water, rather than Muskoka’s soft water. A 2017 study by Queen’s University toxicologists lowered the maximum safe chloride concentration to 20 mg/L in Muskoka based on the plant and animal life specific to the region, he said.

    “Suddenly, we have a bunch of lakes that are above that 20 mg/L chloride level,” said Yan, before pointing to the district’s strategic priority statements on the natural environment. “We need to really put into practice these words of adopting a culture of environmental protection.”

    The Smart About Salt program, he said, has reduced Aurora’s salt use by 20 per cent and Kitchener-Waterloo’s by 25 per cent without increased cost or liability, as examples.

    Kearney threw his support behind the program.

    The retired contractor said companies often use significant amounts of salt, not only to quickly strip snowy roads to bare pavement, but also to bill clients more.

    Education and penalties were needed, he said.

    “We are putting down way more salt than we need to,” said Kearney. “I completely understand there are other materials out there that could be used and I suggest it’s a culture change that starts right here with our leadership.”

    But he added everyone, including homeowners, had a role to play.

    “They have to understand what salt does,” he said. “This area of the province is the green lung of Ontario. If the lakes get destroyed by chloride, what do we have left?”

    Committee members would debate the program’s adoption in future.

    by Alison Brownlee

    Alison Brownlee is a reporter with the Huntsville Forester. She can be reached at abrownlee@metrolandnorthmedia.com . Follow her on Twitter and Facebook

    Email: abrownlee@metrolandnorthmedia.com Facebook Twitter



  • 21 Nov 2017 6:39 AM | Lee Gould (Administrator)

    https://ca.yahoo.com/news/canadians-told-brace-apos-classic-090004708.html

    TORONTO — One of Canada's high profile weather forecasters is warning Canadians across the country to brace for a whole lot of snow this winter.

    Chris Scott, The Weather Network's chief meteorologist, says the message from his forecast team is "buckle up, because it looks like a stormy winter."

    Scott says this year's La Nina weather system bears a striking resemblance to that of 2007-2008, when Toronto had its snowiest winter on record.

    "History tells us that when we have cooler waters off the coast of South America, that's La Nina, and those winters tend to be classic Canadian winters."

    British Columbia, the Prairies, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada are all in store for above normal levels of precipitation, according to the forecast.

    In western Canada, that precipitation will likely be snow as the region shivers in below normal temperatures.

    In Atlantic Canada, where temperatures are expected to be close to above normal, forecasters expect plenty of snow and ice but periods of milder weather and rain will keep snowbanks from getting too high.

    Scott says storms with lots of snow are forecast for December in the eastern half of Canada, while in the western half of the county, the winter conditions are expected to start in January.

    La Nina winters often mean changeable weather, and Scott says that while Canadians can expect to be pounded by numerous snowstorms, there will also be sustained periods of milder weather.

    "You might get two out of three months where you think, 'wow, that was a wild winter,' and then one month where the winter goes away," he explains. "But this will be a winter that's more on than off."

    Scott says Southern Ontario and Quebec might see mild conditions during all of January.  

    The weather pattern also calls for a winter that lingers, meaning the country could experience snowstorms as late as March.

    Scott notes that in the prairies a strong snow pack could benefit soil conditions and help produce a bountiful spring harvest.

    Ski resorts are also anticipating a banner season, especially in western Canada, where the coastal mountains are already getting snow.

    The only region of Canada not following the nation-wide trend is Nunavut, which has seen warming temperatures in recent years due to global warming. Scott says Nunavut can expect warmer than usual temperatures again this winter, along with average levels of snow.

    Salmaan Farooqui, The Canadian Press

  • 20 Nov 2017 8:41 AM | Lee Gould (Administrator)

    https://www.msn.com/en-ca/weather/topstories/canadians-told-to-brace-for-classic-winter/ar-BBFjXK1?li=AAadgLE&ocid=spartanntp

    TORONTO - One of Canada’s high profile weather forecasters is warning Canadians across the country to brace for a whole lot of snow this winter.

    Chris Scott, The Weather Network's chief meteorologist, says the message from his forecast team is "'buckle up' because it looks like a stormy winter."

    Scott says this year's La Nina weather system bears a striking resemblance to that of 2007-2008, when Toronto recorded its snowiest winter ever.

    "History tells us that when we have cooler waters off the coast of South America, that's La Nina, and those winters tend to be classic Canadian winters."

    British Columbia, the Prairies, Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes are all in store for above normal levels of precipitation, according to the forecast.

    In western Canada, that precipitation will likely be snow as the region shivers in below normal temperatures.

    But in the Maritimes, where slightly higher temperatures are expected, the precipitation could make for some sloppy conditions.

    Scott says storms with lots of snow are forecast for December in the eastern half of Canada, while in the western half of the county, the winter conditions are expected to start in January.

    La Nina winters often mean changeable weather, and Scott says that while Canadians can expect to be pounded by numerous snowstorms, there will also be sustained periods of milder weather.

    "You might get two out of three months where you think, wow, that was a wild winter, and then one month where the winter goes away," he explains. "But this will be a winter that's more on than off."

    Scott says Southern Ontario and Quebec might see mild conditions during all of January, while some other regions experience shorter breaks in the cold, lasting perhaps a couple of weeks.

    The weather pattern also calls for a winter that lingers, meaning the country could experience snowstorms as late as March.

    Scott notes that in the prairies a strong snow pack could benefit soil conditions and help produce a bountiful spring harvest.

    Ski resorts are also anticipating a banner season, especially in western Canada, where the coastal mountains are already getting snow.

    Advertisement

    The only region of Canada not following the nation-wide trend is Nunavut, which has seen warming temperatures in recent years due to global warming. Scott says Nunavut can expect warmer than usual temperatures again this winter, along with average levels of snow.

  • 17 Nov 2017 10:02 AM | Lee Gould (Administrator)

    https://www.straight.com/news/996496/henry-flanagan-another-cold-winter-ahead-vancouver-needs-rethink-road-salting

    By Henry Flanagan

    Last winter, more than 60 centimeters of snow blanketed Vancouver between December and March. The heavy snowfalls and sustained cold temperatures caused chaos throughout the city: vehicles slid and crashed on icy streets; transit was rerouted and delayed; and residents struggled to keep their driveways and sidewalks cleared.

    Last year’s winter weather was highly unusual for the Lower Mainland, and cities and residents struggled to cope. Part of Vancouver’s response was to spread large quantities of salt over roads in the city. The city purchased an unprecedented volume of salt, more than 9,000 tons, for de-icing, spending more than a million dollars in the process. In contrast, the city purchased less than 1,000 tons of salt in 2015-2016.

    Salt (sodium chloride) has a unique property of lowering the freezing point of snow and ice. This causes ice to melt at lower temperatures than it would normally, which is why salt is commonly spread on roads and sidewalks.

    On the surface, the practice of salting appears to be a safe and responsible way of dealing with snowy and icy surfaces. Why else would the city of Vancouver have used so much of it last winter?

    However, researchers have identified significant environmental damages that are caused by road salting. Stuart Findlay and Victoria Kelly of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies have studied how salt from roads runs off into nearby bodies of water such as streams and lakes, or seeps into groundwater. Their studies show that this can lead to lethal concentrations of salt for various types of fish, insects, and trees.

    Even in nonlethal amounts, salt runoff can cause harm by affecting the life cycles of aquatic organisms and increasing dispersion of heavy metals in soils. There are also concerns for human health: salt runoff can potentially contaminate aquifers that are used for drinking water.

    So, what alternatives exist to salting roads? Sand is already heavily used by the city, with thousands of tons used in the last few months of 2016 alone. Sand does little to melt snow and ice but increases traction and makes walking and driving safer. Additionally, other deicing salts, such as calcium chloride, have higher costs but may have a reduced environmental impact.

    Some cities are even exploring organic deicers like molasses and cheese brine, which can help melt ice with fewer potentially harmful chemicals. Although many options exist, some degree of road-salting is necessary to increase safety in extreme winter events, and alternatives are intended to reduce the quantity of salt needed rather than fully replacing it.

    The City of Vancouver should further explore ways in which it can limit the amount of salt used on roads during winter in order to minimize the damages that it causes. Vancouver prides itself on being a "green" and sustainable city, and these values shouldn’t be thrown out during winter storms—even if they happen infrequently.

    Rather than having a reactionary response to snowfall like last winter’s, the city needs to have a plan in place for exceptional snow and ice events so that it is not forced to spend huge sums on emergency shipments of ecologically harmful salt. This could include better study and utilization of salt alternatives for deicing, more planning to increase the efficiency of salt that is used, and improved snow tires and chains for public transit.

    By researching and investing in road-salt reduction now and better preparing for future heavy snowfalls, the City of Vancouver could help the environment and save taxpayer money. And with Environment Canada forecasting another colder-than-average winter, this should happen sooner rather than later.

    Henry Flanagan is a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia majoring in geography with a specialization in environment and sustainability.


  • 10 Nov 2017 10:49 AM | Lee Gould (Administrator)

    The Region of Waterloo, Ontario has produced and made available a video on preventing ice before it occures. To view please go to https://youtu.be/LAw6i1kOUhY.

    This video is part of a three (3) part series that can be fully accessed along with a worksheet at www.regionofwaterloo.ca/winterplan.

  • 10 Nov 2017 10:48 AM | Lee Gould (Administrator)

    The Region of Waterloo, Ontario has produced and made available a video on the contract basics related to winter maintenance. To view please go to https://youtu.be/pVctfQPUycM.

    This video is part of a three (3) part series that can be fully accessed along with a worksheet at www.regionofwaterloo.ca/winterplan.

  • 10 Nov 2017 10:46 AM | Lee Gould (Administrator)

    The Region of Waterloo, Ontario has produced and made available a video on winter maintenance. To view please go to https://youtu.be/ex7lt3lp2Wk.

    This video is part of a three (3) part series that can be fully accessed along with a worksheet at www.regionofwaterloo.ca/winterplan.


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