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  • 11 Jan 2018 6:27 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Andrew Hardy, president of CUPE local 1190, believes the recent treacherous conditions on New Brunswick highways are the result of government cuts to the Department of Transportation that started back in 2011.

    Two storms over the holidays, followed by extremely cold temperatures, have led to the build-up of what is called "anchor ice" on highways across the province.

    The icy conditions have led to many accidents and prompted complaints from across New Brunswick.

    If the snowplows had been out earlier and more often, the highways would not have formed a layer of ice that was essentially salt-resistant below certain temperatures, Hardy said.

    And snowplow operators aren't to blame, he said. Hardy pointed to cuts in the past six years that he said have resulted in 55 fewer snow-clearing machines and 70 fewer plow operators.

    'They cut the alternate operators'

    Hardy said the biggest impact of the cuts has been the elimination of spare or alternate snowplow drivers who can take over when the regular crews have reached their limit of 16 hours.

    "If we had the spare operators we could be out there 24-7… we could have a couple [drivers] going up and down the road to keep up with the storm until those other men and women are rested and come back in at four o'clock in the morning."

    Hardy said the reality is that plows are often taken off the highways at 11 p.m. and aren't back on the highways until 4 a.m.

    There's a lot of accumulation that happens between 11 p.m. and four in the morning and if you've got traffic going over that it packs it and it turns into ice. You're seeing the conditions today."

    Hardy also believes snowplow drivers should be called in to start clearing highways sooner.

    "We should be out there quicker — before the storm is full force."

    Delay in clearing the highways contributes to the problem of ice, which is hard to get at below certain temperatures.

    Minister blames past government

    Hardy said he met with the director of operations for the Department of Transportation on Nov. 21 and asked that alternate snowplow operators be rehired in all areas of the province.

    Transportation Minister Bill Fraser said Wednesday that the department is still trying to rebuild after cuts by the previous government. 

    "We simply don't have the resources in place right at this time to do everything that the CUPE president is suggesting," Fraser said.

    The minister said new "staffing level targets" have been set and the department is recruiting.

    "Recruitment has been a challenge due to the cuts that were made by the previous government.

    "Potential employees — some of them are reluctant to sign on to a job where they know cuts have been made in previous years."

    Fraser said that since the Liberals took office, the winter maintenance budget has been increased by 15 per cent, and in the past two years 45 new snowplows have been purchased.

    Less salt on highways?

    Hardy said his snowplow operators are also concerned by efforts by the Transportation Department to reduce the amount of salt that is applied to highways in an effort to make it consistent across the province.

    "The cuts in some of the districts was going to be so drastic we said, 'No, don't do that, don't go down to that because you're going to have problems and you're seeing it now.'"

    Hardy pointed to the Saint John district as an example, saying officials wanted to cut the blast rate for plows, which is the amount of salt released on icy corners, steep hills and intersections, by half.

    Fraser agreed that the blast rate has been "recalibrated," so it is consistent across the province, but he also insisted there have been no cuts to the volume of salt or sand being applied to roads.

    He said drivers have "full authority" to use as much salt or sand as they see fit, although Hardy said that would come as news to plow operators.

    "That's not fact — they're told what to put on," Hardy said. "Their trucks are calibrated. If they do have leeway they don't know that."

    Beet juice being investigated

    Fraser said he has asked department staff to investigate the use of beet juice as an additive to make road salt more effective.

    "That's something that we're going to consider," he said.

    Brun-Way Highway Operations Inc., the company that manages and maintains the highway from Longs Creek to the Quebec border and Route 95 from Woodstock to the U.S. border tried adding beet juice to its road salt a few years ago.

    In an email, spokesperson Felicia Murphy said the beet juice was not intended to replace salt but rather to "help the salt's effectiveness in lower temperatures.

    Murphy said it did not have the desired result.

    "We used it with lower temperatures, and yes it worked, but it only worked about 30 minutes quicker than a salt brine mixture we have used as well to pre-wet salt applications," Murphy wrote.

    She said Brun-Way has just begun another trial using a product called Pro-Melt Mag 30, but there are no results on its effectiveness yet.

  • 11 Jan 2018 6:25 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    It’s white and granular and gets spread heavily every winter. We see it pouring onto highways and staining our boots. It’s familiar. And it’s toxic.

    It’s road salt, and it’s having a devastating impact on the freshwater ecosystems of the Great Lakes.

    Road salt, the most common being sodium chloride, dissolves easily in water and flows from roads and parking lots into the sewers, and then into our creeks, wetlands, rivers and lakes. In the winter and spring in the Great Lakes region, salt levels in groundwater and surface water regularly reach levels that are dangerous for wildlife.

    WWF-Canada’s recent Watershed Reports showed very high threats from pollution to the Great Lakes watershed. In this region, with its dense network of pavement and people, excessive use of salt in winter is responsible for the toxic conditions damaging aquatic life.

    Freshwater fish can’t survive in water that’s too salty, and salty water kills eggs and larvae of wildlife such as mussels. Frogs and turtles die when there’s too much salt in lakes and rivers.

    Disturbingly, there are reports that salt-water species such as blue crabs introduced into Ontario lakes and rivers are able to survive because of all the salt we’ve dumped into the environment.

    This graphic shows the measurement of Cooksville Creek in Mississauga, Ont., after the first significant snowfall in the Greater Toronto Area on Dec. 11, 2017. Road salt was spread during the wintry conditions and the effects on the creek were evident within hours. The deeper pink background area shows where salt reaches unhealthy levels for aquatic life. Because wintry conditions have continued since that day in mid-December, salt levels have remained very high and unsafe for wildlife in the creek for weeks now.

    Road salt also ends up in our drinking water. Although Health Canada does not set a maximum concentration for chloride in drinking water, in some places in Ontario, such as Waterloo Region, salt concentrations can reach the level where tap water tastes salty.

    World Wildlife Fund Canada is working to achieve a measurable reduction in road-salt use in Ontario over the next three years to improve the health of our freshwater ecosystems. To achieve this, we are:

    • Partnering with businesses to reduce salt on their properties. Seventy per cent of road salt contamination in the Great Lakes watershed comes from private property, often large parking lots such as the ones around big-box stores. We’re partnering with property-management groups and creating tools to help them reduce their salt use this winter.
    • Encouraging training and certification. We’re working with the Smart About Salt Council in Ontario to promote certification for those who salt roads and parking lots. Through collaborations with Landscape Ontario, we are engaging contractors to reduce the salt they spread. Using more salt isn’t better or safer, and education will help balance public safety with environmental concerns.
    • Working for policy change. We’re advocating for a policy change that will require commercial enterprises and municipalities in Ontario that use road salt  to undergo training and certification. With our partners, including the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, we’re advocating for an Ontario-wide road-salt reduction strategy.

    The salt spread on our roads and parking lots doesn’t melt away with the snow: It accumulates in our creeks, rivers and other water systems. We must recognize the damage it does to freshwater wildlife, and take steps to stop the harm.

  • 09 Jan 2018 9:41 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    As part of the SASC participation at the Landscape Ontario 2018 Congress we're offering a 40% discount on both in-class and online training.

    Sign-up today online at or visit our booth at the Main Entrance (end of aisle 1500) at the Toronto International Congress Centre.

  • 08 Jan 2018 4:58 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    January 8, 2018

    Find related stories on NSF's Environmental Research and Education (ERE) programs at this link. Also find related stories on NSF's Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Program site.

    Across North America, streams and rivers are becoming saltier, thanks to road deicers, fertilizers and other salty compounds that humans indirectly release into waterways. At the same time, freshwater supplies are becoming more alkaline or basic, the "opposite" of acidic.

    Salty, alkaline freshwater can create big problems for drinking water supplies, urban infrastructure and natural ecosystems. For example, the well-documented water crisis in Flint, Michigan, occurred when the city switched its primary water source to the Flint River in 2014; the river's high salt load combined with chemical treatments made the water corrosive and caused lead to leach from water pipes.

    A new study led by National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded researchers is the first to assess long-term changes in freshwater salinity and pH -- a measure of how acidic or alkaline something is -- at the continental scale.

    "Such water quality issues as sewage, wastewater and nutrient loading are being addressed," said Tom Torgersen, director of NSF's Water Sustainability and Climate program, which funded the research. "But management of water quality impacts remains a challenge because of our increasing population, the size of our built infrastructure and other factors."

    A half-century of data

    The analysis draws from data recorded at 232 monitoring sites across the country over the past 50 years and shows significant increases in both salinization and alkalinization. The results also suggest a close link between the two properties, with different salt compounds combining to do more damage than any one salt could do on its own.

    "This research demonstrates the value of long-term data in identifying potential threats to valuable freshwater resources," said John Schade, an NSF Long-Term Ecological Research program director. "Without such long-term efforts, widespread and significant degradation of water quality by human activities would remain unknown. Now we can begin to unravel the causes and develop strategies to mitigate potential effects on the environment and public health."

    The analysis, which is published in this week's issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has implications for freshwater management and salt regulation strategies in the United States, Canada and beyond. Researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD), the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, the University of Connecticut (UConn), the University of Virginia and Chatham University co-authored the study.

    "We created the term 'Freshwater Salinization Syndrome' because we realized that it's a suite of effects on water quality," said Sujay Kaushal, a biogeochemist at UMD and lead author of the study. "Many people assume that when you apply salt to roads and other surfaces it just gets washed away and disappears. But salt accumulates in soils and groundwater and takes decades to get flushed out."

    Changes in rivers across the country

    The researchers documented sharp chemical changes in many of the country's major rivers, including the Mississippi, Hudson, Potomac, Neuse, Canadian and Chattahoochee rivers. Many of these rivers supply drinking water for nearby cities and towns, including some of the most densely populated urban centers along the Eastern Seaboard.

    According to Kaushal, most freshwater salinization research has focused on sodium chloride, better known as table salt, which is also the dominant chemical in road deicers.

    But salt has a much broader definition, encompassing any combination of positively and negatively charged ions that dissociate in water. Some of the most common positive ions found in salts -- including sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium -- can have damaging effects on freshwater at higher concentrations.

    "These 'cocktails' of salts can be more toxic than just one salt, as some ions can displace and release other ions from soils and rocks, compounding the problem," said Kaushal. "Ecotoxicologists are just beginning to understand this."

    The study is the first to simultaneously account for multiple salt ions in freshwater across the United States and southern Canada.

    The results suggest that salt ions, damaging in their own right, are driving up the alkalinity of freshwater as well.

    Significant increase in salinity

    Over the time period covered by the study, the researchers concluded that 37 percent of the drainage area of the contiguous United States experienced a significant increase in salinity. Alkalinization, which is influenced by a number of different factors in addition to salinity, increased by 90 percent.

    "Our study is the first to document a link between increased salinization and alkalinization at the continental scale," said scientist and study co-author Gene Likens of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and UConn. "Until now, we didn't fully appreciate the role that different salts play in altering the pH of streams and rivers of our country. Salt content and pH are fundamental aspects of water chemistry, so these are major changes to the properties of freshwater."

    The causes of increased salt in waterways vary from region to region, Kaushal said.

    In the snowy Mid-Atlantic and New England, road salt applied to maintain roadways in winter is a primary culprit. In the heavily agricultural Midwest, fertilizers -- particularly those with high potassium content -- also make major contributions. In other regions, mining waste and weathering of concrete, rocks and soils releases salts into adjacent waterways.

    "We found that the pH of some rivers started increasing in the 1950s and '60s -- decades before the implementation of acid rain regulations," said Michael Pace, an environmental scientist at the University of Virginia and a co-author of the study. "We also observed increased salt concentrations in the Southeast, where they don't apply road salts. These surprising trends presented a puzzle that our team worked to solve."

    In the water-starved desert Southwest, where salt concentrations have historically been very high, Kaushal and his colleagues documented an overall decrease in salinity over time.

    The researchers attribute the decrease to a variety of factors, including changes in land and water use, coupled with an effort on the part of Western state and local governments to reduce salt inputs and improve water resource management strategies. For example, in 1973, the seven Western states included in the Colorado River Basin created the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Forum to support salinity control efforts.

    New salt pollution management strategies needed

    Kaushal noted that many strategies for managing salt pollution already exist. Evidence suggests that brines can be more efficient than granulated salt for deicing roads, yielding the same effect with less overall salt input. Pre- salting before a major snow event can also improve results.

    "Not all salts are created equal in terms of their ability to melt ice at certain temperatures," Kaushal added. "Choosing the right salt compounds for the right conditions can help melt snow and ice more efficiently with less salt input, which would go a long way toward solving the problem."

    Kaushal also said that many Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern cities and states have outdated and inefficient salt-spreading equipment that is overdue for an upgrade.

    The researchers note similar issues with the application of fertilizers in agricultural settings. In many cases, applying the right amount of fertilizer at the right time in the season can help reduce the overall output of salts into nearby streams and rivers.

    And more careful urban development strategies -- primarily building farther from waterways and designing better storm water drainage systems -- can help reduce the amount of salt washed away from weathered concrete, the scientists say.

    The study co-authors believe there's also a need to monitor and replace aging water pipes throughout the country that have been affected by corrosion and scaling, or the buildup of mineral deposits and microbial films. Such pipes are particularly vulnerable to saltier, more alkaline water, which can increase the release of toxic metals and other contaminants.

    "The trends we are seeing show that we need to consider the issue of salt pollution and take it seriously," Kaushal said. "These factors are something we need to address to provide safe water now and for future generations."


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  • 08 Jan 2018 6:19 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    With the potential for an icy weekend after this week's storm, crews will be out and about salting the roads, sidewalks, parking lots and homes.

    And while the salt helps melt ice and gets Islanders moving again, it does have some negative effects.

    Here are some prevention tips to keep your car from rusting, your pets healthy and your footwear from being ruined.


    Matt Thomson, general manager at Midtown Auto Repair and Tire in Charlottetown, says salt causes corrosion and rust on the underside of vehicles.

    "Mainly we see the impact on the floor, the subframe, the heads of bolts, those kinds of areas," he says. "Essentially what it does is it slowly eats the body and the frame of your vehicle."

    Salt doesn't affect tires but it can damage aluminum rims.

    An annual rust proofing is the most common and effective type of prevention for salt, but it will only slow rusting, not completely eliminate it. Thomson recommends applying rust proofing every year, generally in the fall before the snow comes. Cars that are 10 years old or more are more likely to have rust damage, but he said you shouldn't wait that long to get your vehicle rust proofed.

    "It's instantaneous," Thomson says. "If you have a brand new vehicle, you should undercoat it before its first winter because it will start to do damage its first winter."

    Repairs or replacements are possible depending on the type of rust damage and where it is, but sometimes that will be not as safe or too costly compared to getting a new vehicle. He also suggests that used car buyers get a car inspected underneath before buying a vehicle that's eight or more years old.


    Marla Somersall, executive director of the P.E.I. Humane Society, says they strongly encourage people to use sand instead of salt around their home if they have cats or dogs. Salt gets into their paws and dries them out, she said.

    "It can actually cause cracks and bleeding, and it can get up in between the pads on their feet. Between the cold and the salt, it can cause a lot of damage for pets' feet."

    "The other piece is that dogs will lick because it's bothering them and so they're actually ingesting the salt and the chemicals that are in that and can cause themselves digestive problems and illness as well." 

     At the very least, Somersall says you should wash their paws when they get back inside. 

    The best thing to do if you have pets on sidewalks or areas with salt is to have them wear booties or, if your pet doesn't like booties, apply a protective balm of your choice to their paws. Once you're back inside, you will want to wash off their paws. And as always, you want to be conscious of the temperature outside and how it's affecting your pets.


    Richard Meenink, owner-operator of Dr. Shoe in Charlottetown, says shoes and boots worn outside in the winter will eventually be ruined by salt if they're not cared for properly.

    "Left alone, it can really destroy them," he says. "Footwear for the most part is either leather or vinyl, particularly boots, it basically will eat through the surface and either turn the leather crusty and harden it and swell it up, and the vinyl it damages the surface for the most part.

    "It looks horrible but in the long run, it leaves it unusable."

    There are different protector polishes people can apply to their footwear — the thicker the better, Meenink says. Many new shoes come with some protection but it doesn't hurt to apply more, particularly for leather shoes. Depending on use, you may need to apply additional protection or polish at the beginning of winter or as frequently as once a month.

    The way to tell if you need to re-apply is to take a few drops of water and flick them on your boot, under the arch where it's not noticeable. If the water beads off, they're still protected, but if the water sinks in, you should re-apply. There are spray and past protectors available at shoe repair shops and online.

    And, like pets, it's best to have something by the door to address the salt right away.

    "I do tell my customers this time of year to keep a towel by the door where they come in for the day and if their boots are wet, the best thing you can do is dab them dry," he says. "Because even if you've protected a boot or shoe, left overnight with wet and salt, given time that will eat through just about everything."

    Meenink says it's not hard to get white stains out from the salt, but if it eats through the surface so that it swells up and creates a ridge, that won't come out.

    The best way to maintain your shoes and boots is to keep them dry and clean, and to apply some additional protection to them regularly.

  • 28 Dec 2017 4:08 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Spraying major roads with a salt mixture ahead of winter storms may improve commutes and reduce collisions, but it could be bad news for the North Saskatchewan River.

    Hans Asfeldt, manager of water literacy with North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper, said the group will be keeping close tabs on the city’s calcium chloride pilot project.

    “Anything that goes on the road ultimately does end up in the river, ” he said. “There is a concern around the use of salts or liquid brine in general, and it’s a concern that’s been well documented across Canada.” 

    The city began the pilot project this winter. The aim is to improve how it manages snow and ice on city streets, especially on difficult to plow corridors such as Yellowhead Trail. Around 40 per cent of the city’s roads — around 3,000 kilometres — could be sprayed with a calcium chloride solution 24 to 36 hours before a snowfall. 

    The mixture is less corrosive than traditional road salt and includes a corrosion inhibitor to try to minimize any damage to cars and infrastructure, officials said.

    Asfeldt said some salt has traditionally been used for roadway management in Edmonton.

    But the mixture can be toxic for aquatic life.

    “We want to see clearer numbers around those plans, and we’d like to see them also (compared) against what’s been done in the past,” he said. “Although we have used some liquid salt brine in the past, it’s not nearly on this scale.

    “In order to understand the environmental impact, we A.) need to know what’s been done in the past, how much salt has gone on the roads, and how much of it foreseeably ends up in the river, and B.) how much are we planning to use in the future?”

    A spokesperson for the city said Friday that river monitoring is being done, but could not provide more information because staff were away on holiday.  

    The test zones include several arterial and collector routes and around 170 bus stops, plus downtown bike lanes, officials said earlier. Also included are several park areas so officials can determine the impact on water runoff into the North Saskatchewan River, as well as on vegetation.

    Asfeldt noted that councillors wanted to know more about the spray’s environmental impact when the report on the plan was first presented. 

    He said city administration has done a cost-benefit analysis on the economics but “almost nothing” in terms of the environmental impacts.

    “Really we want to see the city do their due diligence, crunch the numbers and assess the (environmental) impacts extensively, in a way that matches the rigour that was applied to the economic cost benefit analysis,” Asfeldt said.

  • 20 Dec 2017 3:55 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    The City of Calgary is testing a new product made from beet brine to help clear streets of snow and ice this winter, saying it’s proven to be effective across Canada and in the United States.

    “It uses sugar beet molasses mixed with a salt brine to create a product that — when it’s put down — actually sticks to the road,” Calgary roads maintenance manager Jim Fraser said. “It makes it an effective agent for snow and ice control in terms of breaking that bond that the snow has with the road.”

    Fraser said the beet brine will be used all over, but mostly in areas of the downtown core including cycle tracks and pedestrian bridges.

    “It works in a temperature range up to -26 C, theoretically,” he said. “I think it would be very effective up to about -20 C.”

    Why bother with beet brine? Fraser said it’s proven to be less corrosive than regular road salt and communities that have tried it have indicated they needed to use less of it than regular salt mixtures, which in turn saves money.

    “Salt and brine have a tendency to wash away. We’ve seen this product – with its stickiness – stay effective on the roads,” he said. “If the product sticks to the road it will continue to react to any precipitation – snow, ice – that we get.”

    The beet brine’s tendency to stick to roads better means if it’s applied in anticipation of snow which then doesn’t fall until later than expected, it will still be there by the time precipitation does come.

    Fraser said as part of their trial, the city has up to 90,000 litres of the product to use. It will be distributed by the city’s existing fleet of snow and ice control vehicles.

    Under Calgary’s Snow and Ice Control program (SNIC), crews sand, salt and plow city streets that receive the heaviest traffic, moving on to lower-priority roads once those are clear.

    The City of Calgary’s annual snow- and ice-control budget is $38 million.

    Snowfall warning issued for City of Calgary

    The City of Calgary is under a snowfall warning, issued by Environment Canada.

    The agency says 15 to 25 centimetres of snow is expected as a Pacific low-pressure system brings heavy snow to parts of southern Alberta.

    Snowfall warnings are issued when snowfall accumulations of greater than 10 centimetres are forecast to fall in 12 hours or less.

    Environment Canada cautions travellers will need to be ready to adjust their plans due to changing road conditions, saying rapidly accumulating snow may make travel difficult. They add the snow may cause visibility to be suddenly reduced at times.

  • 13 Dec 2017 9:49 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Winter doesn’t officially arrive for nine days, but the first significant snowfall of the season has arrived in the GTA — and it is having a big impact on the Tuesday morning commute.

    Traffic was already an issue early on, with parts of the Highway 401 closed due to jack-knifed tractor-trailers. OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said there have been more than 10 jack-knifed tractor-trailers overnight.

    Much of southern Ontario was under a special weather statement, including Toronto and the GTA. Some areas near Lake Huron also under a snow squall watch.

    The special weather statement ended just before 11 a.m. on Tuesday.

    Toronto received around six centimetres of snow overnight, while some areas outside of the city received close to 10 centimetres of snow. Environment Canada says another five centimetres of snow is expected to fall on Tuesday before tapering off to flurries.

    680NEWS meteorologist Jill Taylor says while the snow will wind down later on Tuesday, the winds will pick up to 40 km/h and it will get colder. By the afternoon, it will feel like -14 C with the wind. The windy conditions will continue overnight as the windchill drops to -19.

    Meanwhile, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health has issued an Extreme Cold Weather Alert that will be in effect until further notice. Extreme Cold Weather Alerts are issued when the temperature is forecast to reach -15 degrees Celsius or colder, or when the wind chill is forecast to reach -20 or colder.

    Environment Canada warns poor winter driving conditions are likely, which will impact the Tuesday commute. Salt trucks and snow plows have been out on the roads all night across the GTA, getting streets ready for the morning.

    If you are flying out of Pearson International Airport, check your flight status before heading to the airport. As of 5:30 a.m., at least 150 flights in and out of the airport have been cancelled.

    This story was originally published on

  • 13 Dec 2017 9:42 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Londoners could be seen trekking through blowing snow on Tuesday evening, as Canada's weather agency issued a snow squall warning. 

    Environment Canada issued the warning that will likely produce squalls off Lake Huron producing snowfall amounts of 30 cm or more. The lake effect snow squalls are likely to persist into Wednesday.

    "We're going to be watching the wind. We're expecting it to pickup from the Northwest, gusting up to 70 km/hr," Environment Canada's metrologist Geoff Coulson said. 

    The weather agency has advised people to consider postponing travel plans until road conditions improve, as travel is expected to be hazardous due to reduced visibility.  

    London's forecast is seeing snow every week day — so here's what you need to know so far.

    London International Airport is reporting flight cancellations for the first time this winter season.

    Up to a dozen departing and arriving flights to-and-from Toronto have been cancelled Tuesday afternoon and evening.

    Gerry Vanderhoek, manager of commercial services and passenger experience, says Londoners should check schedules before heading to the airport. 

    "The biggest thing when you're in these conditions is the ice on the wings. They get in to a really long de-icing delay which could be several hours," he said.

    Vanderhoek said flight cancellations should only last as long as the weather. 

    "This should only be short-lived," he said. "Our runway conditions are wide open and our people are keeping everything smoothly."

    City crews will continue to salt streets on Wednesday. They're warning drivers not to park on the street until further notice. 

    City crews went out on Tuesday with more than 31 plows and 27 salt trucks on the roads clearing main streets and bus routes.

    "If the snow persists and it's a prolonged snow event we do need to go back on those main streets again and re-plow them," said London's manager of roadside operations Don Purchase. 

    The prospect of reduced visibility and slippery roads forced some school bus lines to cancel services. School buses in London continued to run. Cancellations in the counties on Tuesday included: 

    • Oxford
    • Elgin,
    • Middlesex

    There were some reports of collisions Tuesday morning, including a jack-knifed trailer on the 401, near Tilbury that closed westbound lanes for several hours. A propane tanker also blocked lanes on the 402 at Colonel Talbot Road.  

    "Even if you have snow tires doesn't mean you're going to be staying out of the ditch. You still have to drive cautiously," said OPP constable Sean Kivvel. 

  • 08 Dec 2017 8:44 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    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.

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