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  • 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.”

  • 04 Mar 2019 6:22 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Know When to Pass

    Never attempt to pass or drive next to a snow plow when it's actually plowing. Plows can suddenly and unexpectedly move sideways from hitting drifts or by cutting through packed snow, according to the County Road Association of Michigan.These 13 winter driving mistakes can put you in danger.

    It's Hard for Us to See

    Often, plow drivers have limited visibility when clearing the roads. This is especially true when it comes to what's behind the plow. When plowing, a 'snow cloud' is often thrown up and this restricts visibility on all sides of the truck. The Minnesota Department of Transportation says motorists should stay back at least 10 car lengths between your vehicle and the plow. This will help prevent you from experiencing that 'snow cloud.' Try these 10 great hacks for removing ice and snow.

    We Work Long Hours

    In Washington state, snow plow drivers and maintenance crews work 10-hour shifts, four days in a row. 'They run two shifts per day and twice a day there are 90 minute periods when all the plows are off the road,' said Jeff Adamson, communications manager for the Washington State Department of Transportation. If it's heavily snowing, plow drivers may get called in on their off days. It can be taxing, as snow plow drivers have to concentrate in hazardous conditions for long periods of time.Make quick work of your own snow removal with these 13 snow blowing tips.

    Mistakes Happen

    'Sometimes the weight of the snow coming off the plow will knock down a mailbox and sometime a driver may hit mailboxes when plowing along the curb line,' according to the City of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. To help drivers, check to see if your mailbox is placed properly and conduct an annual check on the mailbox before the snow begins to fall. Here's a sturdy, low maintenance, DIY-friendly mailbox you can build.

    Salt Doesn't Always Work

    Different storms require different snow- and ice-fighting techniques, according to the City of Iowa City. If the temperature is below 20 degrees F and not expected to rise, salt isn't effective. The decision whether to plow or salt is made on the most recent weather information available. This is the best way to melt ice (hint: it's not salt).

    We Go Slow

    Trucks typically plow and salt at speeds of 45 miles per hour or less, according to the Livingston County Road Commission in Michigan. Of course that all depends on road conditions, so be sure to always be patient. Everyone needs these 13 things in their winter car survival kit.

    There Will Still Be Slippery Spots

    No matter how hard snow plow drivers work, roads will still be slick in some areas. Be cautious in areas such as intersections, off-ramps, bridges and shady areas. According to the State of Indiana, these are hot spots for ice. Here's the best way to remove an ice dam from your roof safely.

    Don't Pass on the Right

    Never attempt to pass a snow plow on the right side. Many plows have 'wings' that allow the plow driver to clear both the shoulder and the lane of travel in the same pass. According to the County Road Commission of Michigan, 'These wings can extend six feet from the plow and weigh as much as a small compact car. When obstructed from view by the 'snow cloud'' this poses a significant danger to motorists violating the law and attempting to pass on the right/shoulder of the road.' These are the 10 best practices for winter driving.

    Consider Staying Home

    If the roads are extremely bad or the storm is right over your location, consider staying put. 'We know this isn't possible all the time, but if it's an option, choose it,' according to the Kansas Turnpike Authority. 'The roads are dangerous enough, and with the unpredictability of other drivers, why risk getting into an accident?' These 14 incredible snow removal tools will make your life easier.

    Be Patient

    'Don't forget, we're in the storm together,' says the Minnesota Department of Transportation. 'Be patient with the snowplows and drive according to road conditions. Heavy traffic congestion affects snowplowing operations, so if you're stuck in traffic, so are the snow plows.' Here's why you shouldn't warm up your car in the winter.[skyword_tracking]

  • 23 Feb 2019 8:09 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Depleted reserves of road salt in eastern Canada's Ontario state have left precious little to use, while more heavy winter storms are expected to bring fresh ice and snow on roads across the state.

    Footage of a salt stockpile in Toronto, filmed this morning (February 22), shows only one large mound in a normally full dock, while the area is still mostly frozen.

    A combination of disruptions with state salt suppliers and an ongoing stream of storms and freezing weather conditions have left the local Canadian authorities at an unprecedented shortfall.

  • 22 Feb 2019 10:30 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    As residents and commuters recover from Wednesday's treacherous freezing rain, they're seeing a familiar sight on Toronto's roads and sidewalks.

    Salt. Lots of it. Maybe even too much of it in some places.

    Sure, it helps both drivers and pedestrians keep from slipping and sliding on slick surfaces. 

    But Anthony Merante, a fresh water conservation specialist for World Wildlife Fund Canada, says excess amounts of salt are having a negative impact on local wildlife. 

    He says as the snow melts and turns to run-off water, thousands of tons of salt go with it, draining into the sewers, streams, and, eventually, Lake Ontario. 

    Meanwhile, homeowners and contractors in Ontario are struggling to find road salt — the result of what many are calling an unprecedented province-wide shortage. 

    Between 10,000 and 12,000 tons of salt per storm 

    So how much is too much? 

    Mark Mills, the superintendent of road operations, says the city uses between 10,000 and 12,000 tons of salt to fight storms similar to the one that hit Toronto Wednesday — he says that's typically the amount used when all 200 salt trucks are sent out. 

    "What we have to keep in mind is we will always err on the side of public safety," Mills told CBC Toronto on Wednesday. 

    "It will start affecting fish, turtles, frogs, and then upper levels of the food chains," Merante said. 

    He said the solution is simple: use less salt. 

    Studies show just using a small salt shaker would be enough to melt ice on a sidewalk slab, he added.  

    To avoid overkill, he says each truck has an electronic control for spreading the salt, which caps at 100 kg per lane kilometre. 

    He says pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers should call 311 if they notice that a lane or sidewalk has been over salted.

    "We often will see that there's a little more salt than maybe is required — we need to know about that," he said. 

    City, homeowners could be held liable 

    Mills says the city will apply whatever it can — plows or salt — until the pavement is bare, which is a mandated level of service set by council. 

    "We don't want to be held in any type of liability," he said. "We do understand that salt has an adverse affect to the environment, so there is a balance that we constantly have to look at."  

    But it's not just the city that can be overzealous with the salt, Mills said.

    Property owners sometimes put too much down, as well, After all, they're expected to clear off ice and snow from their sidewalk, and can use "whatever materials they see fit" to ensure they aren't vulnerable to any sort of liability if a pedestrian is hurt.  

    One Toronto woman says she understands why some property owners would rather be safe than sorry. 

    "I think, just out of an abundance of caution, they put out a lot of salt," Elizabeth Takasaki said. 

    Owners can be fined, or even sued, if someone slips and falls on their sidewalk. 

    'It's overkill' 

    "Too much, far too much, it's overkill," said Shawn Draisey, when looking at the salt coating the cement near a King Street streetcar stop. 

    "There's different ways to do this," he told CBC Toronto Tuesday.  

    He says the people spreading salt on sidewalks either don't know how to cope with snow and ice, or don't understand the possible negative environmental impact. 

    "We're in Canada and we've been doing this for a long time," he said. 

  • 21 Feb 2019 6:58 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Ontario homeowners and contractors are struggling with what some are calling an unprecedented province-wide shortage of salt, leaving them with few options as an icy encore of freezing rain bears down a large swathe of Southern Ontario.

    An incoming storm from Colorado is expected to bring another wintry blast of snow and freezing rain to large area of Ontario, stretching from Windsor to Cornwall, with an area in the middle, stretching from London to Tobermory and Durham to Niagara, expected to be the hardest hit.   

    The storm is moving in while salt supplies are meagre, thanks to a combination of last year's severe winter weather, a 12-week strike at the Goderich, Ont. salt mine and ongoing flooding at an American salt mine beneath Lake Erie in Cleveland, Ohio.

    "Having a three-month hiatus hasn't really helped the situation," said Gary Lynch, the president of Unifor Local 16-0, the union that represents workers at the Goderich mine. 

    "We can produce a lot of salt in three months," he said, noting the strike has depleted reserves, which would have been mined and stockpiled over the course of last year's labour dispute.

    Since then, Lynch said the mine has been operating 24/7 with most miners working 12-hour shifts to churn out up to 300 tractor trailers worth of salt a day. 

    "The guys are down there working their butts off, as fast as we can get it to surface, it's gone," he said. "We don't have any stock." 

    The company that owns the mine, Compass Minerals, said last summer's strike "had very little impact" on production and while it has had supply challenges this winter, it insists they are only short-term. 

    "Our inventory levels are typical for this time of year and we continue to ship packaged salt from production to warehouse sites daily," spokeswoman Tara Hefner wrote. 

    What shipments are arriving at retail stores are selling out quickly, according to Tammy Dagenais, an assistant manager at a Windsor Home Hardware. 

    "We just received a shipment, so [customers are] scooping it up maybe two or three bags at a time," she said. 

    While some stores have stock, there have been reports of stores in the London and Waterloo regions turning customers away because of empty shelves. 

    Government contracts take priority for salt miners, such as Compass Minerals, in the Great Lakes basin, but even some municipalities have indicated their supply is low. 

    The municipality of Waterloo Region issued a statement Wednesday saying "salt stores are currently very low, due to difficulty in obtaining adequate volume from our supplier."

    The supply is so low in that area, the cities of Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo are using sand instead of salt on residential back roads in order to guarantee an adequate salt supply for main roads and bus routes. 

    Complaints about slippery roads have more than doubled in Kitchener to 340 this year, compared to 168 last year. 

    The dearth of locally available salt has forced many private contractors to look further afield to places such as Morocco or Egypt where prices are higher.

    "The salt price went up 50 per cent," said Dennis Leonhardt, the owner of London Snowplow and Landscape, who called the situation unprecedented. "Last year, I was paying $96 a tonne and this year I'm paying $145."

    Leonhardt said what makes the situation unprecedented is the fact this is the first time he's ever had to requisition salt from a foreign country, saying supplies are scarce not only in Ontario, but also most of the eastern United States. 

    "My supplier doesn't expect it to become a whole lot better," he said. "This may become the new norm." 

    Leonhardt said he believes once prices spike like they have this winter, it will be almost impossible for them to return to the levels they were even a year ago. 

    "Maybe it will go down to $120," he said. "I don't see it going back down to what it used to be." 

  • 15 Feb 2019 1:47 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    osh Kurek is challenging his environmental studies students to think of ways to reduce salt use on Mount Allison University walkways and parking lots without hurting safety.  

    Scientists have found freshwater lakes getting saltier each year because of runoff from salted roads. 

    In Canada, the amount of rock salt used ranges from two to nearly five million tonnes a year, according to the Department of Environment and Climate Change.

    The estimate doesn't include salt used on sidewalks or by private homes and institutions.

    Mount Allison University, for example, spends $12,000 to $15,000 a year on rock salt, depending on the year. 

    Kurek said he hopes his third and fourth-year students can come up with ways to maintain safe parking lots and pathways free from ice, while reducing the cost to the university and the environment.

    Kurek said studies show that even a small area of paved ground near a wetland can increase the risk of that lake becoming saltier.

    "In many lakes that are surrounded by urbanized areas, the levels in those fresh waters have increased over several decades," said Kurek.

    "There's no cost-effective, easy way to remove salt [from] fresh waters."

    Kurek said it's an important issue and a timely subject.

    "I'm teaching a course in the winter time about lakes and rivers and wetlands, and so I wanted to connect the students with something that's happening on the landscape right now. 

    "Walking around campus, you certainly notice salt and sand everywhere."

    Amber LeBlanc, a third-year student, said tackling hands-on issues is one of the reasons she chose environmental sciences as a field of study.

    "We get to deal with things that are going on right now in the real world, real issues, and road salt is a major one."

    "It's in the front of my mind now."

    Kurek's class is working in tandem with another class at the university to help develop a plan to use less rock salt.

    David Lieske is teaching an advanced geographic information systems class to his fourth-year geography students. 

    "One of the groups will be investigating the 'hotspots' of slippery ice on the campus walkways, by gathering observations directly, through information volunteered by the campus community, and through predictive mapping using a geographic information system based on environmental factors that can be expected to bring about slippery ice."

    Once slippery areas are determined, those spots may require more treatment, while other areas may need less.

    Salt use has caused problems across the country. 

    Environmental researchers in the Greater Toronto Area are finding road-salt runoff is affecting local waterways to the point of damaging ecosystems and infiltrating groundwater supplies. 

    But Kurek said that in the Maritimes, it's difficult to know the full effect of rock salt runoff.

    "We tend to do very little monitoring of fresh waters and even less monitoring of fresh waters in the wintertime," he said.

    With climate patterns changing, it's a topic that could become more pressing, he said.

    "I think we can expect to see more of these freeze-thaw types of events, so that's going to require some creative thinking about how we ensure safe sidewalks and roadways."

    Amber LeBlanc is looking forward to taking a crack at reducing salt use.

    "The ultimate goal is to come up with something that's doable," she said.

    Kurek said at the end of the term, students will have put together a plan to present to the university administration.

  • 15 Feb 2019 7:25 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

  • 15 Feb 2019 6:59 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    With this week's snow and a round of freezing rain in the forecast, many streets and sidewalks in Vancouver have been covered with a layer of salt — a good thing for safety, experts say, but dangerous for the environment if it's overdone.

    Egan Davis has more than 20 years' experience in snow and ice removal, both for the City of Vancouver and in the private sector.

    He said the city is "fantastic" at using the right amount, but homeowners and businessowners often use too much.

    "Especially, gosh, this last week ... the amount of salt that went down, in my observation, was extreme. The sidewalks were just white and caked with it," said Davis, who commutes around the city on foot or by bike. "I've seen people shaking bags out."

    With this week's snow and a round of freezing rain in the forecast, many streets and sidewalks in Vancouver have been covered with a layer of salt — a good thing for safety, experts say, but dangerous for the environment if it's overdone.

    Egan Davis has more than 20 years' experience in snow and ice removal, both for the City of Vancouver and in the private sector.

    He said the city is "fantastic" at using the right amount, but homeowners and businessowners often use too much.

    "Especially, gosh, this last week ... the amount of salt that went down, in my observation, was extreme. The sidewalks were just white and caked with it," said Davis, who commutes around the city on foot or by bike. "I've seen people shaking bags out."

    Davis, who also teaches horticulture at the University of British Columbia, said excess salt is simply bad for the environment.

    "When it rains, [salt] runs off and leeches into the soil and it can burn the roots of plants — I've seen plants die from this," he said. "And it ends up washed into the storm drains, untreated."

    Conservationists have also raised red flags about the effect road salt runoff has salmon, saying saltier water in spawning streams can increase egg mortality and lead to deformities in adult fish. The mineral is also corrosive to cars and bad for your pets.

    In Vancouver, trained city staff calibrate salting trucks so the right amount of grit goes on the roads. 

    And the right amount does need to go down, for the sake of safety — Vancouverites are required to clear snow and ice from their sidewalks by 10 a.m. every day, or face a fine. Business owners can also be held liable if someone slips, falls and injures themselves on an unsafe sidewalk.

    The key, experts say, is using only what you need.

    "We do work really hard to find a balance between safety and using too much," said Erin Hoess, manager of street operations for the city. "But we would ask that residents only use what's necessary."

    'Walking across the salt flats'

    Davis said a good rule of thumb for people at home is about a handful per square metre. For those who buy bagged products, it's best to read and follow the label as each product has a different rate.

    He said you know if you've overdone it if you're crunching along the sidewalk.

    "You shouldn't feel like you're walking across the salt flats," Davis said.

    Both Davis and Hoess said it's best to lay salt down before it snows, but when the path is already a little damp.

    Salt alternatives

    Road salt works best in temperatures above –5 C, which is fine for balmy Vancouver, but inadequate for many cities and towns across Canada.

    In Prince George, B.C., the winter months are often too cold for salt to be effective on the roads. Engineering staff use a mix of fractured rock and sand instead, saving salt for "critical" areas prone for slips and falls — like steps.

    The rock and sand option is also cost effective: the grit is scooped back up off the roads in the spring to be reused when snow comes back in the fall.

    "We just keep it in the public works warehouse until next time," said city spokesperson Mike Kellett.

    Other wintry Canadian cities, like Calgary, are experimenting with other options like sticky, sweet-smelling beet brine. The reddish-brown mixture isn't corrosive to cars, unlike road salt, and works in conditions as cold as –20 C.

    B.C. has also used beet brine on parts of the Coquihalla Highway where, again, it can be too cold for salt to work well.

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