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  • 22 Nov 2021 7:38 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    UK gritter and road salt shortage could make roads icy death traps as temperatures fall - Mirror Online

    The UK is facing a shortage of gritters and road salt, which could make roads dangerous as temperatures are set to plunge around the country.

    While forecasters have warned Brits to prepare for freezing weather conditions in the coming weeks, there are fears that there are not enough employees to remove snow from the street and keep motorists safe.

    The issue is linked to a wider shortage of HGV drivers, which has seen vacancies jump by nearly a third across the UK compared to pre-pandemic levels.

    Highways chiefs are warning that a lack of staff to spread salt on the roads could cause traffic chaos this winter.

    Officials also said that there is less grit in stock than in recent winters, with transport bosses in Scotland saying there are 30,000 fewer tonnes of salt in stock than last year.

    The Local Government Association said the driver shortage could mean gritting runs are axed, the Daily Star reports.

    Spokesman Cllr David Renard said: "Some councils may find gritting services are affected in the same way as some waste collection services have been impacted."

    Meanwhile, authorities in Hampshire said they are "training new drivers to ensure we can maintain our winter service when demand peaks."

    Wrexham Council said it was "monitoring the situation very closely".

    It comes as forecasters warned the UK can expect sub-zero temperatures from tomorrow, with lows of -12C likely by the end of November.

    Forecasters at MetDesk said: "A big change is shown for next week, with Arctic winds, plummeting temperatures and snow for some."

    The Met Office warned of heavy snowfall in the north of the UK on Monday, with the cold blast predicted to reach the south by Wednesday night.

    Met Office forecaster Marco Petagna said: "I couldn't imagine a better weather pattern for cold weather fans, with forecast models showing a northerly straight from the Arctic next week."

  • 09 Nov 2021 7:14 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Workers at salt mine in Pugwash go on strike | CBC News

    Company Windsor Salt says it has contingency plan to ensure de-icing salt available this winter

    The workers at a salt mine in Pugwash, N.S., are on strike, with 90 employees walking off the job on Friday.

    The workforce has been without a contract since October 2020. The president of Unifor Local 823 said members are concerned with contract changes that would affect job security. Fifty other workers have already been laid off.

    "We wanted a deal, we had four things we asked for in exchange for certain things," said Mark Shaffer. "They just flat out said no and so I feel we were pushed into a corner."

    The mine is operated by Windsor Salt, which is headquartered in Pointe-Claire, Que., and produces salt used in everything from road de-icing to food.

    There has been a hostile work environment at the Pugwash salt mine for the past 10 years, according to Shaffer. 

    Winter coming

    In a statement, Windsor Salt company officials said they were "disappointed" an agreement had not been reached. It also said its latest offer is "fair to the employees and fair to the business," and includes wage increases, a signing bonus and improved benefits.

    There was an unsuccessful round of conciliation in July.

    Over the summer the company stockpiled road salt in both Halifax and Summerside, P.E.I. Windsor Salt said in its statement it has "a contingency plan to ensure the region has de-icing salt throughout the winter."

    Shaffer said if salt is removed from the stockpiles, picket lines will be set up at both the Halifax and Summerside locations.

    The Pugwash operation was bought by an American-based corporation, Stone Canyon, in April.

  • 08 Nov 2021 7:11 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Michigan expands testing of salt water to clear winter highways (

    Parts of Michigan have already seen snow. The Michigan Department of Transportation is gearing up for more.

    One thing the agency will be doing is using a 23% saline solution, salt water instead of rock salt, on more roads. Last year, a pilot project in Montcalm County went well.

    “We found out he could potentially save up to 40% salt and, you know, get the road cleared just as well as you would have and maybe sometimes even slightly better than with putting down rock salt,” said Mark Geib, administrator for the department’s Transportation Systems Management and Operations Division.

    Since the state budgets about $25 million for road salt each winter, that could save a lot of money.

    “We use about 450,000 tons of salt for a winter. So if we could cut that number down by 40%, that's that much less salt going into the environment,” Geib said.

    Less salt running off the roads and into streams, lakes, and wetlands would be better for plants, fish, and other wildlife.

    This winter, liquid salt will be used on stretches of M-43 near Grand Ledge, M-66 in Montcalm County, and M-20 near Mount Pleasant.

    The department is working to find the right methods and the right equipment to eventually use liquid salt on all the highways.

  • 22 Oct 2021 12:51 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    When should you switch to winter tires? Provincial breakdown, here (

    Like it or not, most Canadians will soon need to make the switch to winter tires for their vehicles. Some provinces do have laws in place, dictating the deadline for making the swap, but Mother Nature provides her own clues for when to schedule that appointment with your garage.

    By design, winter tires are engineered to enhance your car's handling, traction, and braking performance when the temperature is below 7ºC. While short bouts of cooler weather do battle with lingering summer-like temperatures through the early fall across most of the country, there does come a day when the average high dips below 7, and stays there until spring.

    Meteorologist André Monette of MétéoMédia, The Weather Network's Québec-based sister station, breaks down those dates for us, region by region.

    While the temperatures don't drop to 7ºC until much later, winter or all-season tires are required by law on many routes in B.C. starting on October 1.

    Québec is the other province that mandates winter tires for drivers. They're required between December 1 and March 15.

    While no government in Atlantic Canada requires the use of winter tires, a 2018 study did suggest drivers there are among the most prepared to meet winter driving conditions. According to the report, 94 per cent of drivers there opt for winter tires.

    Sources: Tirecraft | The Telegram |

  • 15 Oct 2021 8:13 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    La Niña is back: What does this mean for our winter weather? (

    For the second straight year, La Niña is officially back, federal forecasters announced Thursday.

    The La Niña climate pattern – a natural cycle marked by cooler-than-average ocean water in the central Pacific Ocean – is one of the main drivers of weather in the U.S. and around the world, especially during the late fall, winter and early spring.

    It's the opposite of the more well-known El Niño pattern, which occurs when ocean temperatures are warmer than average.

    "La Niña is anticipated to affect temperature and precipitation across the United States during the upcoming months," forecasters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center said Thursday.

    NOAA said this year's La Niña (translated from Spanish as “little girl”) is likely to persist through the winter.

    "Everything you want to see in having a La Niña we are seeing," Michelle L’Heureux, a forecaster at the center, told Bloomberg News. "We are pretty confident La Niña is here."

    A typical La Niña winter in the U.S. brings rain and snow to the Northwest and unusually dry conditions to most of the southern tier of the U.S., according to the prediction center. The Southeast and Mid-Atlantic also tend to see warmer-than-average temperatures during a La Niña winter.

    In addition, because of La Niña, California may see little relief from its ongoing drought, making its wildfire season even worse, Bloomberg said.

    “Our scientists have been tracking the potential development of a La Niña since this summer, and it was a factor in the above-normal hurricane season forecast, which we have seen unfold,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

    Consecutive La Niñas are not uncommon and can be referred to as a “double-dip.” In 2020, La Niña developed during the month of August and then dissipated in April 2021 as "ENSO-neutral" conditions returned.

    The entire natural climate cycle of El Niño and La Niña is officially known by climate scientists as El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a see-saw dance of warmer and cooler seawater in the central Pacific Ocean.

    During La Niña events, trade winds are even stronger than usual, pushing more warm water toward Asia, NOAA said. Off the west coast of the Americas, upwelling increases, bringing cold, nutrient-rich water to the surface.

    This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Winter weather to feel La Niña's impact this year

  • 26 Aug 2021 10:02 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Private snow removal costs to spike as insurance costs skyrocket | Calgary Herald

    Snow removal contractors are being bulldozed by ballooning insurance rates, which could render their services unaffordable to many clients, says a local operator.

    “Everybody’s insurance across Canada is going up because of the slip and fall claims . . . we’re all in the same boat,” said Jorgenson, who said he’s contacted dozens of operators.

    “Some insurers won’t provide any insurance at all.”

    An insurer who normally charged his landscaping company a premium of $7,800 is now quoting rates of $50,000 to $65,000 for the same coverage, he said.

    That will likely lead his company to pass on the increased costs by charging 20 per cent more to commercial customers, but those who’ll most sharply feel the effect of the hike will be residential clients, said Jorgenson.

    “We’re a necessary business — there are seniors and those with disabilities who are incapable of removing snow,” he said.

    The higher insurance costs could put many firms out of business and lead others to operate without insurance, “which would be suicidal,” said Jorgenson.

    “I’m not going to risk 15 years of investment in my business by not being insured.”

    But he said the soaring rates could lead to thousands of layoffs in the sector, adding snow clearing comprises a third of his company’s revenues.

    It could leave residential, commercial and institutional customers scrambling to find service, Jorgenson added.

    “The gap can’t be filled by the big operators out there. They just don’t have the resources to ramp up that fast,” he said.

    Commercial liability coverage claims that include ice-slipping incidents increased by 108 per cent between 2013 and 2020 in Canada — going from $2.4 billion to $5.1 billion, said Rob de Pruis, director of community and industry relations with the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).

    “Premiums are a reflection of the risks these organizations are facing, and we have to consider the claims costs,” said de Pruis.

    The level of premiums would be determined partly by a company’s claims history, said de Pruis, though Jorgenson said his firm was only involved in one such case, four years ago, and was found not at fault.

    It’s unclear why so many more claims are being made by people insisting they’ve been injured, he said, but those liability costs are being increasingly shared by property owners with those who clear snow for them.

    Fraud is a definite element in those claims totals, but because it usually takes so long for them to come to insurers’ attention — three years in some cases — it’s difficult to prove bogus complaints, said de Pruis.

    “Insurance companies and investigators don’t have the most updated or relevant information,” he said.

    And he said insurers aren’t likely to contest a claim if the legal costs exceed the sums being demanded by the complainant.

    At the prospect some landscaping firms could be priced out of the insurance market, de Pruis said there are ways for them to reduce premiums, such as improved training and using before-and-after photo or video evidence of their work.

    Those contractors, he said, can also shop around for better quotes.

    “In Alberta, there are over 60 insurance companies offering commercial liability coverage,” he said.

    Jorgenson said snow removal operators are being unfairly tagged with negligence, adding provincial government policy such as limits to such legal action and caps on liability premiums should be considered.

    “This is about policy created by insurance companies and poor legislation,” he said.

    In 2019 the UCP government eliminated a five per cent increase cap on automobile insurance rates, which then rose considerably.

    Last October, the province announced it was taking legislative steps to address those affordability issues.

    Municipalities are among the larger institutional customers that supplement their own snow clearing efforts with outside contractors.

    A City of Calgary spokesperson said they haven’t heard any concerns from their snow plow contractors, whose multi-year agreements might protect them from the effect of lawsuits.

  • 25 Aug 2021 7:09 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    ROGER TAYLOR: Locked in labour negotiations, Pugwash salt miners oppose company contingency plan | SaltWire

    The 140 unionized workers at the Windsor Salt mine in Pugwash could be facing a lockout or strike if the company’s offer is rejected in a membership vote next week.

    “One of the big (sticking points) is retro pay. . . . Another one would be the pension,” says Unifor Local 823 president Mark Sheffar.

    “We’ve been out of a contract since October 2020 and, you know, they really haven’t shown a whole lot of interest in bargaining,” Sheffar said in an interview.

    “We sat down a couple times and they really don’t seem interested in bargaining at all.”

    In an email, Windsor Salt indicated it “is committed to building productive working relationships with our employees and partners. We have presented an offer we believe is fair, comprehensive and competitive, and serves both operational and employee needs at our Pugwash mine. We look forward to an upcoming employee vote on the matter.”

    However, Sheffar said, he has concerns about what the company is proposing, therefore neither he nor the bargaining committee will be supporting the company’s offer when it comes to a vote Aug. 26.

    This is the first contract negotiation between the union and the new owner of the mine, California’s Stone Canyon Industries Holdings Inc., which acquired the Pugwash operation in April as part of a US$3.2-billion acquisition of the North American assets held by K+S Aktiengesellschaft AG, based in Kassel, Germany.

    All of the K+S facilities in Canada were under the Windsor Salt umbrella, which in turn was under Morton Salt management in the U.S. Both are now owned by SCI Salt, which has an operating arm, the Kissner Group, based in Overland Park, Kansas.

    Kissner Group was acquired by Stone Canyon in 2014 and, combined with the more recent K+S purchase, it has become the largest salt company in the world outside China, according to Sheffar.

    “There’s language they’re trying to introduce dealing with work hours, and I speak to all the union presidents at the different (Kissner) facilities throughout North America and we know for a fact that they came into most of the facilities and really shaken up their hours and things like that,” he said.

    “So, the language they’re trying to introduce (in the contract) is quite detrimental.

    “We’re not opposed to change but you know there’s just a whole lot of little issues that have accumulated over the last few years. They just don’t want to deal with any of the issues and we really want to deal with the issues.”

    Winter safety

    The union has raised the alarm about the possibility of a shortage of road salt this winter if there is a lockout or strike. The union boss said the membership has not yet officially discussed the possibility of a strike to any great extent.

    “A month or so ago, (the company) sent a letter saying they were going to enact their contingency plan,” Sheffar said.

    “What they did was stockpile 40,000 tonnes of salt to Summerside, P.E.I., and, I don’t know the exact number, but they brought in between 50,000 to 100,000 tonnes to Halifax. It’s sitting under the MacKay Bridge.”

    The company stated in its email: “We have well-defined contingency plans in place to ensure the region has the de-icing salt needed to keep the roads in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island safe throughout the winter months. These plans leverage our broader North American production network, giving us the flexibility to adjust our production and distribution processes as appropriate.”

    That salt was from another Windsor Salt operation, Mines Seleine, located on Grosse-Ile in the Magdalen Islands, Sheffar said.

    “What they’ve done was they’ve put a whole large portion of us out of work because they’re not going to need us to mine that salt now.”


    The most recent development, he said, was a phone call on Monday to workers who were set to return to work Sept. 12. The call was to inform them the company wanted them back Aug. 30.

    Most of the workforce has been on employment insurance due to the mild winter, and on July 1 there was another round of layoffs during the replacement of the mine’s headframe. The headframe is a large structure that mine elevators ride up and down in.

    “That needed to be done, so they laid everybody off with the intention of bringing them back on Sept. 12. We informed them last week that we wouldn’t be having our vote . . . until Aug. 26. We were subsequently given a letter saying, ‘OK, we’ll be ready with the ratification documents.’ With the assumption that the vote is going to be in the affirmative,” said Sheffar.

    “I think they’re going to lock us out. Either way, it accomplishes the same thing. We’re not going to be working and by bringing in all that salt, they’ve essentially put a lot of people out of work.”

    The union will be contacting the new Nova Scotia government to ask it to not allow salt mined in another province to be used as a bargaining chip to put local miners out of work.

    “The salt is usually trucked by local truckers to New Brunswick, to P.E.I., to all the (Transportation Department) sheds all over Nova Scotia,” said Sheffar.

    “And so all that trucking, or a significant portion of it, is going to go away.”

  • 16 Aug 2021 8:05 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Looming strike at Canadian Salt could disrupt Maritime's winter supply (

    PUGWASH, NS, Aug. 13, 2021 /CNW/ - Canadian Salt's refusal to negotiate a fair collective agreement with Unifor Local 823 could force a strike at a major road salt supplier in the Maritimes.

    "Unifor members at Canadian Salt are a vital part of the success of the company, and the next collective agreement must reflect that," said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. "We encourage the company to find a path to a fair agreement before the union is forced to escalate."

    The 150 workers at Canadian Salt, owned by the American corporation Stone Canyon, are in a legal strike position. The current collective agreement expired in October 2020 and negotiations have been ongoing but have recently reached an impasse.

    The latest offer from the company will be voted on August 26, but the Local 823 bargaining committee will not be recommending ratification.

    "We are prepared to bargain around the clock but the company must be a willing partner in negotiations," said Mark Sheffar, president of Unifor Local 823. "Our members are prepared to take the next step to increase pressure on Canadian Salt to make a fair offer."

    Media reports show that many jurisdictions are already preparing to source alternative suppliers for road salt.

    Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

  • 13 Aug 2021 10:53 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    44,000 tonnes of road salt to be stored at Summerside waterfront | CBC News

    The Prince Edward Island government and Port of Summerside are planning to store thousands of tonnes of road salt on the city's waterfront — and some local residents are not happy about the decision.

    About 44,000 tonnes of road salt are expected to arrive in Summerside early next month. It will be stored in a makeshift storage depot and eventually be spread in the winter on the province's roads, and streets in Charlottetown and Summerside.

    "I was in disbelief really and just thought that there was no possible way there was any truth to it," said Cory Snow, a Summerside councillor. 

    Snow said neither the province nor the port consulted with Summerside council about where the salt would be stored.

    Potential risks, councillor says

    The P.E.I. government said its supplier of road salt in Nova Scotia, Windsor Salt, had warned about potential "operational issues" this year. There was no guarantee the company would be able to make its usual monthly truck deliveries to the Island this winter.

    So, the Port of Summerside struck a deal with Windsor Salt to bring in two large shiploads of salt this year. The provincial government is only responsible for transporting the road salt from the site to different depots across the province, said Stephen Szwarc, P.E.I.'s director of highway maintenance.

    "I'm quite happy to hear that we're able to work to some sort of agreement to ensure that we do have the salt that we need," said Szwarc.

    Snow said the salt doesn't belong on the waterfront. He said Summerside residents have told him the storage facility will take away from the picturesque view of the harbour. Snow is also concerned about possible health and safety risks of where the salt is being placed. 

    "You're storing 88 million pounds or 44,000 tonnes of salt on the boardwalk just feet away from the Bedeque Bay where there is a number of shellfishers that use that for their livelihoods and the environmental risks that might associate with runoff." 

    The city met with provincial officials on Wednesday to discuss the issue, but no changes to the situation have yet been decided. 

    'Tough situation'

    Szwarc said the province is willing to have a discussion about moving the salt if there's "a big outcry." He also said the road salt will only be at the Summerside waterfront for one year. After that, the province will return to normal operations. 

    The Port of Summerside would not agree to an interview, but CEO Arnold Croken did tell CBC News that the port did not expect the backlash. Croken said the port is now in a "tough situation."

    Meanwhile, Snow said Summerside council hopes it can convince the province and the port to move the storage facility before the road salt arrives. It's also reaching out to legal counsel just in case that doesn't happen.

    In an email statement to CBC News, Windsor Salt said it could not provide specific details about the situation due to proprietary reasons.

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