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  • 03 Oct 2019 12:46 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    We know it’s not winter quite yet and while we still have a few solid weeks left of fall, Old Man Winter is slowly approaching us. While we can hope for a late winter, we never really know when snow is going to fall. The B.C. government recognizes this and is making it mandatory for vehicles in B.C. to have winter tires on as of today. The new winter tire fines are over $100 so you might want to book an appointment to get your winter tires on.

    Winter is off to an early start in some provinces. Lately, parts of Alberta have been seeing so much snow that areas have even been issued winter storm warnings.

    Thankfully, nothing like that is in the forecast for B.C. in the foreseeable future. That being said, we do have to be preparing for winter somehow

    In order to get us ready, the B.C. government has issued a statement saying that as of October 1, 2019, people in B.C. will need to have winter tires on their vehicles. 

    The government knows that this may not be necessary for places like Vancouver. That is why drivers who are in or travelling to certain parts of the province will need to equip their vehicles with winter tires. 

    According to the B.C. government, if you do not comply with the regulation, you could face a fine of $109. 

    According to a press release by the provincial government, an appropriate winter tire is defined as one with either the “M+S or mountain/snowflake symbol” and is in good condition. They also need to have a minimum tread depth of 3.5 mm. 

    The tires marked with a mountain or snowflake symbol on them will be the best for traction on snow, ice, and in cold weather. 

    The tires marked with M+S, on the other hand, will offer better traction than summer tires but are less effective than the mountain and snowflake tires. 

    All drivers in B.C. are encouraged to choose their tires based on the region and conditions in which they regularly drive. 

    Officials have stated that winter tires are not mandatory province-wide, however, they are required on most B.C. highways.

    On March 31, 2020, winter tire regulations will come to an end on many highways. There is the potential for some regulations to extend until April 30, 2020, on select mountain passes and highways.

    Weather in the mountains has the ability to change suddenly. Be sure to check DriveBC before hitting the road. Visit shift into winter for more details and for help on staying safe on the rad.

  • 30 Sep 2019 6:58 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    CALGARY – A snowfall warning has been issued for Calgary on Sunday morning as a storm is expected to continue through the day, resulting in accumulations between 15 to 25 centimetres in the city.

    Environment Canada issued the advisory at about 4:30 a.m., saying heavy snow is expected to continue in Calgary and will proceed north and northwest through the day.

    The agency says the snowfall is expected to stop sometime Monday afternoon.

    Drivers in the City of Calgary are advised to adjust driving with the weather as many roads and highways are slippery and difficult to navigate given the conditions.

    A number of crashes have also been reported throughout the city, including a five-vehicle crash on Stoney Trail late Saturday evening.

    Tara Norton-Merrin, spokesperson for the City of Calgary roads department, says they had lots of warning for this storm last week, so were well prepared with all their equipment to clear roads properly.

    "Right now, we have upwards of about 60 pieces of equipment on the road. We've also called in extra crews for tonight and some contractors so we'll have more than that overnight."

    Most of the major routes in Calgary are wet and crews are able to use salt to accelerate melting, she says.

    "We are asking people to slow down and take their time but they should have a pretty easy drive today."

    Norton-Merrin says they are working on a seven-day snow clearing plan, so the focus is on the main routes, those that have 20,000 vehicles or more per day, at this time. Once those are cleared and under control, plows will then move to other roads.

    Conditions on highways elsewhere in Alberta aren't much better either, as 511 Alberta reports snowfalls throughout the south.

    It also advised drivers to avoid travel on the Trans-Canada Highway in and around Brooks and Medicine Hat on Sunday afternoon as the route, along with several other highways, were in extremely poor condition.

    RCMP in the area say due to blowing snow, visibility has dropped to about 100 metres and multiple collisions have occurred as a result.

    Highway 1 west of Calgary isn't much better either, as 511 Alberta reported multiple crashes on the highway, including a jack-knifed semi tractor-trailer near Dead Man's Flats that is blocking traffic.

    The storm is also causing problems at the Calgary International Airport, where just over a dozen departing flights were cancelled on Sunday morning.

    Warnings are also in place for a number of other communities in southern Alberta, but the very southwestern portion of Alberta is expected to get the worst of it, as nearly 100 centimetres of snow is predicted to fall in that area.

  • 20 Sep 2019 7:54 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Road salt is used to keep roads clear in the winter but a researcher says municipalities should reduce the amount used due to the impact on local lakes. (Rhianna Schmunk/CBC)


    An expert on road salt and its effect on waterways says municipalities need to start finding ways to reduce how much salt is used on roads in the winter.

    Queen's University professor Shelley Arnott will be speaking about the topic in Sudbury on Friday.

    She's been studying the negative impact of road salt on lake habitat. Arnott says studies have shown that water in the lakes in the Canadian Shield is softer, which means it doesn't have a lot of calcium carbonate in it.

    "Calcium carbonate can influence the toxicity of road salt and other contaminants like metals," she said.

    An expert on road salt and its effect on waterways says municipalities need to start finding ways to reduce how much salt is used on roads in the winter.

    Queen's University professor Shelley Arnott will be speaking about the topic in Sudbury on Friday.

    She says that means the effect of salt or chloride on the organisms in lakes in the Canadian Shield is greater.

    "We find that they are much more susceptible at lower concentration of chloride," she explained.

    "So for soft water lakes we need to have another look at what level of protection we have for those lakes."

    Arnott says less salt should be used on the roads.

    "[There is] pretty good evidence that increasing chloride has a negative effect on aquatic life and so somehow we have to come up with that balance," she said.

    "But I think there's lots of things we can do."

    Arnott says mixing road salt with water can help reduce how much is used, adding using a brine like that is also more effective.

    "I think we also need to explore the alternatives and what the impact of those alternatives are," she said.

    Arnott will be speaking at noon at the Living With Lake Centre at Laurentian University on Friday. 

  • 03 Sep 2019 1:41 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    A monarch butterfly had just emerged from its chrysalis when Emilie Snell-Rood reached into its cage, grabbed it carefully to take measurements and photographs, then placed it inside a tall and breezy tent. There it would strengthen its wings for a day or two in relative safety before being released in time to begin a 2,000-mile trek to southern Mexico.

    This monarch in particular, a female, may have a better chance than most to survive the migration. It all depends on how her body reacts to varying levels of road salt.

    In an effort to understand why monarch populations are plummeting, researchers at the University of Minnesota are investigating road salt as both a culprit and an unlikely solution. Across the country, the butterfly's numbers have fallen by more than 90% since the early 1990s, and now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering adding the butterfly to its list of endangered and threatened species.

    In Minnesota, the northern end of a key monarch migration route, researchers believe that road salt is playing an outsized role. That's because many of the state's remaining significant concentrations of milkweed—the food source for monarch caterpillars—run alongside roads and highways.

    When winter road salt is kicked up and ground into dust by traffic, the sodium seeps into nearby soil. The milkweed growing in that soil keeps the sodium within its leaves, said Snell-Rood, an ecology professor at the U who is leading the research.

    Too much sodium is toxic for butterflies and can delay or hinder their muscle development, she said.

    But smaller amounts may prove beneficial.

    "Every animal needs sodium for proper growth," Snell-Rood said during a recent interview at her lab on the St. Paul campus. "But the options are fairly limited for herbivores because plants don't like sodium and tend to have very little of it."

    In the wild, animals resort to various, often strange, behaviors to get that sodium. It's why deer are so attracted to salt licks, why moose seek out aquatic plants and why butterflies have been known to suck up mud, Snell-Rood said.

    "The question is," she said, "is this sodium translating to performance effects in monarchs during migration?"

    Monarchs are just beginning what is perhaps the greatest annual migration in North America. Tens of millions of the orange-and-black butterflies will spend the next few months fluttering thousands of miles from every corner of the country and parts of Canada to just a handful of locations west of Mexico City, where the tiny creatures will mass in numbers so big that their weight can collapse tree branches.

    One of the busiest routes runs down the center of the United States, following Interstate 35 from Duluth to the Texas border.

    To test the role of road salt, Snell-Rood and her team have been raising thousands of monarch caterpillars since the insects first returned north this spring. They've split the bugs into three groups: One is fed milkweed sprayed with high concentrations of sodium, one gets lower levels of sodium and one gets no extra sodium at all. The higher levels are set to mimic the amount of salt that leaks into the soil along major urban highways, such as the I-35 corridor in Minneapolis. The lower levels roughly equal the amount of sodium kicked up along less-trafficked rural roads.

    When each caterpillar emerges as a butterfly, it is measured, tagged with a sticker on its wing and put into a tent for a few days to grow and get used to its surroundings. Then it is released.

    The female butterfly Snell-Rood photographed on a recent afternoon had been treated with lower levels of sodium. Her brain may be a little bigger, eyesight a little better and flight muscles stronger than those of a typical monarch butterfly. Snell-Rood's team has found that those treated with higher levels of sodium take longer to develop. They're expected to be weaker and more vulnerable to frosts, predators and the countless perils they'll face during the great migration.

    Researchers will track the butterflies to see how many from each group make it to Mexico, by working with various partners and possibly sending a team south to try to spot the stickers.

    Lab studies have already shown that modest levels of sodium supplements can increase muscle growth as well as brain and eye size, all of which are critical for migrating, Snell-Rood said. Higher levels can outright poison monarchs or hinder their muscle development.

    This will be the first field test of its kind to see how sodium levels actually affect survival rates outside the lab.

    The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) will be following the results closely. The agency has already begun to design major road projects, such as the reconstruction of I-35W in Minneapolis, with monarch butterflies in mind by adding more diverse plantings of clovers, grasses and milkweed, as long stretches of highway have become one of the butterfly's primary remaining habitats.

    The U's monarch study comes amid heightened scrutiny of road salt and the environmental damage it can cause. In the Twin Cities area, where roads, sidewalks and parking lots are treated with an estimated 349,000 tons of road salt a year, dozens of lakes have already been impaired by chloride contamination, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

    Many of those lakes are becoming so salty they will not be able to support native life within the next three decades, according to a 2017 study from the University of Wisconsin.

    Fortunately for the monarch, however, solving their sodium problem is likely to be much easier than fixing Minnesota's long-term addiction to salt.

    If lower concentrations of sodium prove helpful for monarchs, then Minnesota would need to make just a few changes to salting and plowing practices, Snell-Rood said.

    "If you look at just a profile of roadsides across Minnesota, most have low to moderate traffic, which is good," she said.

    It's the busiest corridors that are probably toxic to monarchs. And even along those major highways, she said, fixes could be relatively simple and cheap. The most toxic plants are right next to the road, she said, so the easiest solution would be to mow that strip consistently and remove the milkweed.

    Forcing the caterpillars to move even just a few yards away from the road could mean the difference between strong monarchs and weak ones.

    Snell-Rood and her team will present MnDOT with a series of recommendations once their study is complete this winter.

    "Depending on what we find, I really think we're going to be able to have a discussion and come up with ideas that are feasible," she said.

  • 06 Aug 2019 7:43 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    GREEN BAY –  An Egyptian ship that arrived in Green Bay Friday morning could be the first of an increased number of international shipments to the Port of Green Bay.

    The ship, called the Andean, left Damietta, Egypt on July 8 with 18,000 tons of road salt. It arrived 3½ weeks later at the Fox River Terminals, a subsidiary of The C. Reiss Coal Co.

    It's the first time an international saltwater vessel of this size has been to the dock just north of the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge, C. Ruess Coal Co. CEO Marlin Gohlke said. The ship can carry up to 20,000 tons of cargo.

    "We wanted to bring in a foreign flag vessel and prove that we could do it, and this was the first opportunity we've had," the company's president, Mark Cummings, said.

    A front-end loader picks up road salt from a shipment that arrived from Egypt Friday at Fox River Terminals in Green BayBuy Photo

    A front-end loader picks up road salt from a shipment that arrived from Egypt Friday at Fox River Terminals in Green Bay (Photo: Kaitlin Edquist/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

    The company's reason for the direct delivery from Egypt was twofold: It wants to increase opportunities to handle international shipments, while also taking precautions to prevent a shortage of road salt this winter.

    Salt was brought to Green Bay from overseas last year, but it was transferred in Canada from an ocean-going vessel to a lake vessel. What makes this arrival unique is the fact that this shipment came from Egypt on a single ship, Cummings said.

    Many drivers remember the shortage that affected much of Wisconsin last winter. Due to production issues, domestic producers couldn't fully serve the entire market. Toward the end of the winter, salt had to be borrowed from other cities like Chicago to meet the area's needs.

    "We thought this was a good opportunity for us and the chance to also keep the market from being short," Gohlke said.

    Half of the year's salt inventory is already at Fox River Terminals, a collection that generally starts in May, Cummings said.

    Workers started to unload the Andean after a two-hour inspection of the ship by the U.S. Coast Guard and Etters International, a local customs broker. Unloading the ship will take between 24 and 36 hours.

    Gohlke said he hopes this will lead tof more foreign imports in the future. He also hopes to start shipping products internationally from Green Bay.

    "We're hoping it opens up new opportunities for us and for the port," he said.

    Contact Kaitlin Edquist at (920) 431-8505 or Follow her on Twitter at @kaitlinedquist.

  • 16 Jul 2019 6:39 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    UNITED COUNTIES, Ontario – SDG County Councillors debated about the region’s winter road salt usage on Monday, July 15, before passing a motion that approved a $3.1 million tender.

    The joint tender, issued by the City of Cornwall, includes the supply, delivery and loading of winter road coarse rock salt from Compass Minerals Canada Corp. for $105/tonne, based on an approximate requirement of 30,000 tonnes per season.

    Mayor of South Stormont Bryan McGillis was quick to express his concerns with the product and price tag.

    “I can’t support this motion with what the facts are here and the adverse effects of salt on our environment,” said Mayor McGillis.

    Mayor McGillis, who expressed concern about the topic at a previous council meeting, said he had spoken with a number of public works employees who agreed that coarse rock salt is not the most environmentally friendly option and many tonnes go to waste each season, with the county more realistically utilizing between 20 and 24 tonnes rather than 30. The same sources also expressed to McGillis that the method in which the salt is distributed is not always efficient and there is a level of run-off that does not stay on the roads.

    In 2004, according to McGillis, the county spent less than half of today’s asking price, just above $1 million, for coarse rock salt. Mayor McGillis maintained that although excessive cost is something to consider, his main concern remains on long-term environmental impacts.

    Ben De Haan, Director of Transportation and Planning Services, said that the County had not recorded exactly how much salt was used per season in several years and suggested that the inflation of pricing was a result of increased market demand for available supply.

    Deputy Mayor of South Stormont David Smith, as well as Deputy Mayor of South Dundas Kirsten Gardner, agreed with McGillis’ concerns. Deputy Mayor of North Dundas Allan Armstrong proposed passing the motion with the intent of planning better for next year and having a discussion about what product could be used in place of salt. Deputy Mayor of North Glengarry Carma Williams reminded Council that the issue of road salt could not be considered in a vacuum and that it may influence other road maintenance endeavors or machinery.

    “The way we’re set up right now, we can’t not use (road salt)…not to sound dramatic but lives depend on it,” said De Haan, who agreed to reassess pricing and formula options for the 2020-2021 winter road maintenance season.

  • 16 Jul 2019 6:37 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

  • 19 Jun 2019 12:49 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Toronto, June 19, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) --

    June 19, 2019 – Southern Ontario waterways are showing dangerously increasing road salt levels in WWF-Canada’s Great Lakes Chloride Summer Hot Spot Map.

    Although road salt – sodium chloride, calcium chloride and magnesium chloride – keeps public areas safe during icy winters, it is a critical threat to the health of Ontario’s freshwater and wildlife.

    More than 7 million tonnes of road salt are used in Canada each winter by public road agencies alone. Road salt use by the private sector and small towns is not currently tracked or controlled in Ontario.  

    Road salt’s chloride component is toxic to species and ecosystems year-round. The runoff from winter applications is affecting the creek and river habitats for species like fish, frogs and mussels – where these chloride levels endanger their survival during spawning season in the spring and summer months.

    The Summer Hot Spot maps reveal many urban and rural waterways in southern Ontario including the Greater Toronto Area, Stratford, Barrie and Kitchener-Waterloo are showing record high chloride levels. Some are even as salty as the ocean.

    WWF-Canada’s maps will help inform policy recommendations to the Ontario government. These include establishing a Provincial Water Quality Objective (PWQO) to address species-at-risk susceptible to chloride levels; regulating road salt application, including mandated training and certification; and developing liability benefits for public and private holders that track and record evidence for maintaining public safety and environmental health.

    The Summer Hot Spot maps is based on data collected during the summer months (May-October) and allows users to compare chloride levels from 2007-2011 and 2012-2016. Researchers can also look up specific addresses to learn about threat levels in nearby bodies of water using the public map: 

    Elizabeth Hendriks, vice-president of freshwater says:

    “While healthy levels for aquatic life should be less than 120 mg/L, our maps show some areas in southern Ontario currently have levels greater than 1000 mg/L year-round. Ontario is over salting its parking lots, sidewalks, and roadways. A small pill bottle or salt shaker is all that’s needed to melt the equivalent of a city sidewalk slab.”

    About World Wildlife Fund Canada

    WWF-Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most for Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important, so that nature, wildlife and people thrive together. Because we are all wildlife. For more information, visit

    Infographics and b-roll package available upon request.

    Alexandra del Castello WWF-Canada 416 489 8800 ext. 7231

  • 27 May 2019 4:23 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Above, Brockville Collegiate Institute students Monis Sayyid, left, and Jack Sloan won gold for their project The Windfall Solution: An Alternative Winter Road Treatment. Courtesy photo

    BROCKVILLE Two Brockville Collegiate Institute students won gold at the Canada-Wide Science Fair, held May 15-17 in Fredericton, NB.

    Grade 9 students Monis Sayyid and Jack Sloan medaled in the intermediate category with their project The Windfall Solution: An Alternative Winter Road Treatment. The pair developed and tested an apple brine solution made from windfall apples and proved it worked more effectively at lower temperatures than common road salt or the beet brine solution currently used on roads.

    “I was very excited to win a gold medal,” said Sayyid. “We worked really hard on this project and all that hard work really paid off.”

    “I honestly didn’t think we were going to win because of the high caliber of projects that were there,” said Sloan. “It was pretty awesome.”

    Ten intermediate gold medals are awarded at the national competition, making their project among the top 10 in Canada.

    For their accomplishment, Sayyid and Sloan each won:

    • The York University STEM Entrepreneur Bootcamp Scholarship Award (Value $2,000)
    • The Intermediate Resource Challenge Award
    • A $4,000 Western University Entrance Scholarship
    • The Grand Award: Youth Can Innovate Award (Intermediate /$750 Cash Award)

    This is the third consecutive year these two students have brought home a medal at the national competition. The past two years they have won bronze.

  • 20 Mar 2019 8:49 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    With the arrival of warmer temperatures, Minnesotans may be putting their bags of de-icer into storage. But all the salt they sprinkled on the ground all winter in the name of safety?

    It’s hanging around.

    In fact, it’ll be here in July — and much, much longer than that. The sodium chloride, or salt, in most de-icers is now running off into lakes and streams with the meltwater, and it does not break down or disappear. And with no good way to treat it, the chloride has been accumulating in Minnesota’s waters, slowly poisoning them.

    About 50 Minnesota lakes and streams are now officially listed as impaired for chloride, meaning they don’t meet water quality standards. Most are in the metro area. More are getting close to the limit. “It’s a one-way street,” said Sue Nissen, an Edina resident with a citizens’ group called StopOverSalting (SOS). “I think that’s what’s alarming about it.”

    Concerned about this emerging pollution problem, state lawmakers are devising a new way to break Minnesota’s winter salt habit. Bills currently in House and Senate committees would create a statewide program to certify the professionals who apply salt to sidewalks and parking lots, so they know how to best control ice without using excessive salt. The certification would cost individual contractors up to $350.

    The bills target private snow and ice control companies who contract with property owners and managers. The measures are designed to help shield contractors from the threat of lawsuits, saying that certified applicators are not liable for damages from hazards resulting from accumulated snow or ice as long as they used “best management practices” for de-icing.

    Addressing the fear of liability is crucial to changing the salt culture, said Brooke Asleson, a water pollution prevention coordinator for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

    “The fear of slip-and-fall lawsuits is really a big barrier for them,” Asleson said.

    Homeowners out sprinkling their steps are not a significant source of the state’s growing chloride contamination, said Asleson, and are not part of the bills.

    Whether the liability protection is sufficient isn’t clear. The bills also specify that liability isn’t limited if the person applying the salt is negligent or should reasonably have known there was a dangerous condition, for example.

    Joel Carlson, chief lobbyist for the trial lawyers group Minnesota Association for Justice, said his group supports the measures and worked on the clarifications.

    “I can’t think of a single instance where lowering someone’s responsibility for polluting the environment has resulted in the outcome that you want,” he said. “That just doesn’t work.”

    The bills also don’t address water softeners, the other main source of chloride pollution, said Rep. Peter Fischer, D-Maplewood, lead author of the House bill.

    Cutting down on road salt alone won’t solve the chloride contamination problem, but “it starts getting at it,” Fischer said.

    Forrest Cyr, government affairs director for the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association, has testified in support of the proposals. Cyr said he knows his members oversalt. They are under pressure, he said, from property owners and managers concerned about safety and mindful of negligence lawsuits. Owners want to see the salt, Cyr said.

    “You can see the salt even on dry sidewalks,” he said. “They put that down there just so there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind. It almost looks like snow.”

    Just check your shoes

    Testifying at the State Capitol recently, Tim Malooly, owner of Irrigation by Design in Minneapolis, suggested committee members check their shoes for salt damage. They all looked down, he said.

    Malooly said that while he hasn’t been sued, he knows many vendors who have. The pressure is real, he said.

    And it’s grown in recent years as more people move into low-maintenance or no-maintenance communities, he said, such as senior developments. Residents hammer volunteer leaders in those communities with phone calls and e-mails when walkways get icy, he said. They want pristine sidewalks and driveways.

    “They say: “Get out here and salt!’ ” Malooly said.

    Limiting liability is crucial to getting buy-in, he said: “It gives us a great deal of cover to be able to reasonably stand up to the misunderstanding of some of our customers that want us to over-apply.”

    The new program would build on the MPCA’s existing Smart Salting program, which focuses only on the Twin Cities. The expanded program would cost an estimated $200,000, including one new full-time position to run it.

    The change can’t come fast enough, some say.

    “We have 10,000 reasons why we need that legislation,” said Connie Fortin, president of Fortin Consulting, an environmental consulting company in Hamel. Fortin’s company works with government agencies, and provides the training for the Smart Salting program, funded mostly with grant money.

    Excessive chloride is toxic to fish and aquatic life, including bugs.

    Saltwater is heavier than the freshwater. In lakes, it sinks to the bottom and creates a layer that can interfere with the way lakes naturally turn over their water, Fortin said, with water from the bottom moving to the top and stirring up oxygen.

    “I don’t think we’ve even begun to understand what that means for our lakes,” Fortin said. “That’s all new for us.”

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