The opinions expressed in our new items and other published works are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Smart About Salt Council (referred to as SASC) or its Directors, Officers, Volunteer, agents or staff.

All rights reserved. No part of any SASC published work may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the publisher.

Information contained in our published works have been obtained by SASC from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither SASC nor its authors guarantees the accuracy or completeness of any information published herein and neither SASC nor its authors shall be responsible for any errors, omissions, or claims for damages, including exemplary damages, arising out of use, inability to use, or with regard to the accuracy or sufficiency of the information contained in SASC publications.

  • 18 Jul 2018 10:53 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    NEWMARKET (July 18, 2018) Conservation Authorities are pleased to see the release of the Good Practices for Winter Maintenance in Salt Vulnerable Areas. This guidance was developed by a multi-stakeholder group chaired by the Ontario Good Roads Association and Conservation Ontario, and comprised of members from municipalities, conservation authorities, as well as provincial and federal governments.  Road salt is commonly used for maintaining road safety during winter, and also to suppress dust on unpaved roads. Excess road salt impacts watershed health, affecting our surface and groundwater resources including drinking water sources. “The successful partnership with the Ontario Good Roads Association has resulted in the development of a milestone guidance for road salt management. This guidance includes a wide variety of good practices that will help protect Ontario’s drinking water sources.” Kim Gavine, General Manager of Conservation Ontario said.  The good practices guidance is a living document that currently focusses on protecting municipal drinking water sources that have high levels of sodium or chloride. These practices can be considered by municipalities in salt management plans, by contractors who manage parking lots, and for risk management plans developed under the Clean Water Act.
    Read about Good Practices for Winter Maintenance in Salt Vulnerable Areas  Learn about Ontario’s Drinking Water Source Protection program
    For more information: Kim Gavine, General Manager, Conservation Ontario   (905) 895-0716 ext. 231
    Chitra Gowda, Source Water Protection Lead, Conservation Ontario   (905) 895-0716 ext. 225

  • 20 Apr 2018 8:15 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    A drainage engineer with the city of Greater Sudbury says to better understand the issue of rising salt levels in Ramsey Lake, you have to take a shorter view of the data. 

    CBC news reported last week that the Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance, a group of scientists and concerned citizens, is worried about the amount of salt and chloride now in Ramsey Lake and beyond. 

    The group pointed straight at city salt trucks as a big factor in the ongoing rise.

    Paul Javor, a drainage engineer and self-styled "stormwater guy" with the city, said there's no doubt that Sudbury's water has become increasingly salinated over the years. 

    For him, it's a question of what the levels look like since the city started to make changes to its road salting practices.

    "In the long-term projection, [the Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance is] looking at data from the 90s until relatively recently, and there's certainly an upward trend," he said. 

    "[But] if we looked at the data kind of going forward kind of from 2010, we're seeing that salt levels are kind of levelling out within Ramsey Lake, and similarly, chloride levels are as well." 

    Javor said about a decade ago, the city stopped salting most local and side roads, partly as a cost-saving measure, since salt is pricier than sand. 

    Now, fewer than 25 per cent of Sudbury roads get salt at all. 

    Javor said to maximize the road salt the city actually does put down, it has also started making it's own brine.

    "[That's] a pre-wetting agent that we use to help salt stick to the asphalt, which helps us use less salt," Javor explained.

    Another change: Javor said the city doesn't salt as often as it once did during a single winter storm. Now, it salts once, and then roads get sand after that. Javor said it's an effort to keep salt from simply being plowed off the road with each pass of a plow.

    Competing interests

    While the Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance decries the use of any road salt, calling for alternatives like other phosphates or nothing at all, Javor said the city has an obligation to balance environmental stewardship with road safety; a tension that he said plays out at every level. 

    "I've seen it between two neighbours. One neighbour wants his lakeside, you know, 'make sure there's no salt remotely in my area,' and the other neighbour puts the salt to it.

    Javor said another part of the salt contamination issue comes down to private and commercial salt use. He said he'd like to see more public education about putting salt down in the slippery winter months.

  • 18 Apr 2018 3:23 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    TORONTO—Road salt is fast becoming the new phosphorous, according to Elizabeth Hendriks, vice-president, Freshwater Program at the World Wildlife Fund. Although the situation is not yet a crisis, Ms. Hendriks said that she was very pleased with the funding allocation in the new Ontario budget aimed at getting ahead of the problem—but there is plenty we can all do to ensure Ontario’s fresh water stays fresh.

    “We have been working on the road salt issue for over a year now,” said Ms. Hendriks. “It is great to see the government has seen this as an issue that we need to get ahead of.”

    Recent studies on inland lakes and rivers have raised the alarm on rising levels of salinity in those bodies. “Our rivers are turning into oceans,” said Ms. Hendriks. “Salt levels are so high. The government has identified salt as a toxic substance.”

    Ms. Hendriks said that she anticipates it will not be long until road salt “becomes the next phosphorus.” For decades now, governments, NGOs, cottager associations and individuals have targeted phosphorous with diligence and some effect, although some Great Lakes are still experiencing negative impacts from phosphorous. “Lake Erie is experiencing huge algae blooms,” noted Ms. Hendriks. Remediating a problem that has been allowed to get out of hand is generally a lot harder than getting ahead of an issue and preventing it from becoming a potential ecological disaster.

    Salt has been fingered as a major negative environmental factor for marine life in freshwater eco-systems.

    With government onside, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done on the public education side of things. “It’s not the water we need to manage,” suggested Ms. Hendriks, “it’s the people.”

    There are plenty of options for a grassroots approach to helping deal with the issue. “One thing people can do themselves is to dial back on their own use of salt,” said Ms. Hendriks. “We encourage people to shovel their walkways and driveways (instead of just laying down copious amounts of salt) and wear winter boots.”

    When it comes to the larger parking lots and malls, let your concerns be known to the management, she suggests. “If you see a mall parking lot being salted, let the management know that you would prefer they find another way of keeping their lots clear.”

    Concerns about slips, falls and the associated legal ramifications have gotten out of hand, suggests Ms. Hendriks. “We need to dial back on the liability.”

    Ms. Hendriks suggests that businesses and municipalities can seek out Smart About Salt certified contractors when they are arranging to have their lots taken care of over the winter. The Smart About Salt program is offered by the Smart About Salt Council, a not-for-profit organization which offers training to improve winter salting practices on facilities and recognizes industry leaders through certification. Its programs can be accessed at

    “It’s a day-long training session that provides information on the most effective use of salt,” said Ms. Hendriks.

    Winter salt is economical to purchase, readily available and an effective tool for keeping surfaces clear of ice, notes the Smart About Salt website. “However it is important to manage its use to reduce the negative impact winter salt can have on our environment. Salt damage costs us all. As individuals, it affects our clothes, shoes, animal friends, lawns, gardens and vehicles. In our communities, it damages sidewalks, roads, buildings and bridges and leads to increased maintenance costs.”

    Ms. Hendriks pointed to the Elliot Lake Mall collapse tragedy as an example. “Salt was a contributing factor,” she noted.

    As for the province’s largest user of road salt, through its road contractors, the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) says it keeps a close rein on its use. “The Ministry of Transportation takes its responsibility for the safety and mobility of the motoring public and the environment seriously,” responded Gordan Rennie, regional issues and media advisor for the Northeast. “MTO utilizes best management practices to ensure only the right amount of road salt is used for each winter storm. The ministry is fully compliant with, and in some cases exceeds, Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Code of Practice for Environmental Management of Road Salt. The code was developed to reduce the environmental impact of road salt while maintaining roadway safety.”

    Mr. Rennie went on to note that “MTO uses the following approaches to maximize the effectiveness of road salt used and minimize the environmental impact: Direct Liquid Application (DLA) is used prior to winter storms to proactively apply anti-icing liquids preventing the snow and ice from bonding with the road surface. This reduces the need for road salt. You may have seen this on the road as thin white lines. In Northeastern Ontario DLA is typically used on higher volume highways such as Highways 11, 17 and 400.”

    In addition, “salt can be pre-wet with an anti-icing liquid to help it stick to the road, reducing the amount bouncing into the ditches. This enables a reduction in the salt application rate.   

    Electronic Spreader Controllers ensure a consistent application of salt across the pavement regardless of the vehicle speed. Automated Vehicle Location is used to track salt applied to the road to ensure best management practices are achieved. Road Weather Information Stations are used across the province to accurately forecast the weather and pavement conditions to effectively plan winter maintenance operations and identify the most effective response to each storm.”

    Even moving the material around is kept under close eye. “All salt is delivered in covered trucks, stored in covered facilities with impermeable bases to prevent loss to the environment,” said Mr. Rennie. “MTO works with stakeholders across Ontario, Canada and the United States to research new products and procedures to deliver better snow and ice control performance with less environmental impacts. This includes anti-icing liquids and processes to enhance the performance of road salt.”

    As to investigating road salt alternatives, Mr. Rennie noted that the “MTO continues to monitor alternatives to road salt. There are a number of alternatives, including but not limited to: calcium chloride, magnesium chloride and calcium magnesium acetate. These alternatives typically cost significantly more than road salt and require higher application rates than road salt to achieve the same results. There are also environmental impacts associated with the road salt alternatives.”

    Citizen groups are stepping up across the North to tackle the issues close at hand. Sudbury is a good example of that movement. The Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance (GSWA) recently released its ‘Road Salt Discussion – Summary Report (Summary Report).’ This report was the result of the Road Salt Discussion event held on February 5 at the Vale Living with Lakes Centre.

    A press release notes that at the event GSWA hosted a science panel made up of Dr. John Gunn, Canada research chair, Stressed Aquatic Systems and Director of Vale Living with Lakes Centre; Dr. Charles Ramcharan, associate professor, School of the Environment at Laurentian University; and Anoop Naik, water resources specialist, with Conservation Sudbury.

    The purpose of the event was to raise an awareness, and to explore possible solutions to increasing sodium and chloride levels in Ramsey Lake, a primary source of drinking water for over 50,000 residents in the City of Sudbury.  Ramsey’s sodium levels are approaching three times the level at which the Medical Officer of Health must be notified so patients on sodium-restricted diets can be alerted; and chloride levels are rapidly approaching a level that can harm aquatic life.

    “GSWA has formally expressed concern with the City at every opportunity with regard to the additional winter road salt required to service the Second Avenue Industrial Improvements, the proposed casino parking lot, and the numerous other road projects proposed in the recent Transportation Study Report,” the group states. “We are also concerned that the Ramsey Lake Sub-Watershed Study is not adequately considering the road salt issue.”

    As Dr. Gunn reminded us, “with our rocky thin soil, we have very little resistance to the hydraulic changes of climate change, and the current sub-watershed study is not facing this future at all.” 

  • 17 Apr 2018 12:03 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    The United States has made enormous progress in reducing water pollution since the Clean Water Act was passed nearly 50 years ago. Rivers no longer catch fire when oil slicks on their surfaces ignite. And many harbors that once were fouled with sewage now draw swimmers and boaters.

    But as Earth Day approaches, it is important to realize that new, more complex challenges are emerging. In a study published earlier this year, we found that a cocktail of chemicals from many human activities is making U.S. rivers saltier and more alkaline across the nation. Surprisingly, road salt in winter is not the only source: construction, agriculture, and many other activities also play roles across regions.

    These changes pose serious threats to drinking water supplies, urban infrastructure and natural ecosystems. Salt pollution is not currently regulated at the federal level, and state and local controls are inconsistent.

    Our research shows that when salts from different sources mix, they can have broader impacts than they would individually. It also shows the importance of supporting water quality monitoring nationwide, so that we can detect and address other pollution problems that have yet to be recognized.

    Altered waters

    Our group has been studying freshwater salinization for over 15 years. In 2005 we published a paper that demonstrated that levels of sodium chloride (common table salt) were rapidly increasing in fresh waters across the northeastern United States.

    Until that time, scientists thought that salinization was a serious problem mainly in arid regions where water evaporates rapidly, leaving salts behind. But we found that it was affecting major drinking water supplies, exceeding toxic levels for some aquatic organisms and persisting in the environment year-round, even in humid regions.

    The main cause we found was the spread of paved surfaces, such as roads and parking lots. Communities in cold regions use de-icing salts to clear snow from roads during winter, and the more roads they build, the more treatment is needed. We found that a 1 percent increase in paved surfaces could boost salt concentrations in nearby water bodies to levels more than 10 times higher than pristine forested conditions.

    In 2013, we published another study showing that rivers were becoming more alkaline across regions of the eastern United States. At that time acid rain – i.e., too much acid in rainwater, caused by air pollution – had been a well-known environmental issue for several decades. However, alkalinization was not recognized in the same way, and its effects are still poorly understood now.

    Alkalinization is the opposite of acidification: It occurs when water’s pH value increases instead of falling. As water becomes more alkaline, certain chemicals dissolved in it can become toxic. For example, ammonium is a nutrient in freshwater ecosystems, but is converted to toxic ammonia gas in significant concentrations in waters with a high pH. Alkaline conditions also enhance release of phosphorus from sediments, which can trigger nuisance blooms of algae and bacteria.

    We found that a process we called “human-accelerated weathering” was breaking down rock and releasing minerals into rivers that were making them more alkaline. The process of weathering rocks and minerals that become exported to rivers is typically slow, but we showed that land development and decades of exposure to acid rain were speeding it. We also suggested that widespread use of geologic materials in fertilizers and concrete was a factor.

    Identifying freshwater salinization syndrome

    Our study on human-accelerated weathering showed that along with sodium chloride, other dissolved salts were increasing in fresh water across large regions of the eastern United States. This made us wonder whether there could be a link to our previous work on salinization in these regions.

    We started to recognize that in theory, salt pollution and human-accelerated weathering could be sending increasing quantities of salts that were alkaline into rivers throughout the nation, and that this could increase their pH levels. We knew that ocean water, which is naturally salty, has a higher pH than fresh water because it has accumulated high levels of alkaline salts. After much analysis, we proposed that similar interconnected processes could influence salinity and pH in fresh water.

    Many sources release alkaline salts into the environment, including weathering of impervious surfaces, fertilizer and lime use in agriculture, mine drainage, irrigation runoff and winter use of road salt. Initially, parts of these alkaline salts bind to soil. But when they come into contact with sodium – for example, excess road salt – chemical reactions occur that release the alkaline salts, which then wash into freshwater ecosystems.

    We called this process freshwater salinization syndrome because it was producing multiple effects on salts, alkalinity and pH, which are fundamental chemical properties of water.

    Different causes by region

    Figuring out this process was a team project that required knowledge of limnology (the study of inland waters), geochemistry and geography. The causes vary from one location to another, but the outcomes can be similar.

    For example, rivers are becoming more saline and alkaline in parts of North Carolina, Florida, Virginia and other states that use little or no road salt. This is likely due to human-accelerated weathering in locations underlain by limestone (which dissolves when it comes in contact with acid rainwater) and in urbanized areas with lots of concrete infrastructure, as well as urban salt pollution from sewage, water softeners or fertilizers.

    Our research was supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation and drew on enormous quantities of monitoring data from ecosystems across the United States collected mainly by the U.S. Geological Survey. We analyzed long-term trends in the chemistry of rivers over five decades and compared these trends across different major river systems and regions.

    We also analyzed trends in major estuaries, such as the Hudson River and the Chesapeake Bay, to investigate whether increasingly alkaline inputs from rivers could potentially influence the chemistry of coastal waters. Our results show that changes in salts can alter concentrations of pollutants such as excess phosphorus and nutrients that are bound up in sediments at these sites.

    Managing salt pollution

    Freshwater salinization syndrome is affecting drinking water supplies in many parts of the United States. In some cases it is altering the taste of water or threatening the health of people with hypertension.

    There is growing concern that salts in fresh water can corrode water pipes and release toxic metals such as lead into drinking water. They also can trigger reactions that mobilize other contaminants and pollutants from soils into rivers.

    As other scientists have shown, mixtures of salts can be more toxic to aquatic life than just one salt alone. The Environmental Protection Agency does not currently regulate salts as primary contaminants in drinking water, and state and local regulation of salt releases over wide areas from activities such as road treatment are sparse and inconsistent.

    We believe there is a serious need for federal regulations and regional plans to reduce salt pollution in fresh water. One strategy would be to reduce use of road salts by calibrating application and adjusting application rates based on temperature. In addition, not all salts are created equal: It may be more efficient to use certain salts as deicers at lower temperatures. Finally, organic de-icing solutions use less salt than conventional versions.

    New forms of water pollution are constantly emerging, and it is important to identify how different human activities accelerate geological processes in nature. Fresh water accounts for only about 3 percent of the Earth’s total water supply (the rest is in the oceans), and there will always be a need for better understanding and management of this precious resource.

  • 13 Apr 2018 9:16 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    The company that intends to gradually discharge 1.3 million cubic metres of salt into the Shubenacadie River estuary says it searched unsuccessfully for disposal alternatives.

    “The Alton environmental assessment in 2007 looked at commercial and technical alternatives to brine release, but they were not considered economic or feasible,” said Lori MacLean, spokeswoman for Alton Natural Gas Storage LP.

    “Recently, commercial and technical alternatives to brine release into the tidal estuary were revisited by the Alton team, including underground storage, salt market and evaporation, but again were not found to be commercially or technically feasible.”

    The company, a subsidiary of AltaGas, plans to draw nearly 10,000 cubic metres of water daily from the Shubenacadie River estuary at Fort Ellis and propel it through a 12-kilometre underground pipeline to the Brentwood Road cavern site. There, the water will be pumped nearly 1,000 metres underground to flush out salt, creating two caverns, each about the size of an average office building and capable of storing up to six billion cubic feet of natural gas.

    The brine created by the salt dissolution will then be pumped back to the estuary for release into the river system, a gradual discharge of 1.3 million cubic metres of salt over a two- to three-year period.

    There have been recent suggestions that the salt brine could be used by the province to de-ice some of its highways.

    Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines was not available for an interview this week but spokeswoman Marla MacInnis said in an email that the department is not involved in any discussions with Alton Gas.

    She said the 240,000 tonnes of salt used annually on Nova Scotia highways comes from Pugwash, Magdalen Islands and the Bahamas. The average cost of buying the salt, including trucking to locations, is $81 per tonne. The cost to apply the salt is separate. The salt is hauled to the province’s 53 storage locations and is spread in both brine and rock form.

    The Canadian Salt Company runs the mine in Pugwash that produces a good portion of the highway salt. The 2007 environmental assessment application from Alton Gas explained that the sale of brine to the Canadian Salt Company or to Sifto Canada and the “supply of brine to provincial and municipal users for winter maintenance of roads and producing evaporated salt for commercial sale were investigated.”

    The application said that the total consumption of brine in the province for pre-wetting highways during the winter season was expected to reach a maximum of 2,800 cubic metres a year.

    “The potential market for Alton brine as a pre-wetting supply is very small and represents less than one day of Alton production per year,” according to the environment application.

    It concluded that the evaporation facilities at Canadian Salt and Sifto consume saturated brine at an average combined rate of 1,560 cubic metres per day.

    “Cost of brine generation is low while brine quality and supply are well established and secure,” the application said. “Freight cost for delivering brine from Alton to producers is estimated at 13 times the cost of brine produced on site.”

    A scenario of building an evaporator plant with downstream equipment and storage for the Alton project was also considered.

    “On a capital and operating cost basis alone, such a facility cannot compete with the established producers,” the environmental registration report said. “In addition, the current markets are over-supplied and volumes such as those contemplated from Alton are excessive when compared even to national volumes for evaporated salt.”

    MacLean said Alton’s brine release will take place in the Shubenacadie’s “powerful tidal estuary that fills with salt water from the ocean twice a day.”

    She said that brining operations at Alton must stop when the river’s natural salinity reaches 28 parts per thousand, which is within the range of salinity for the river. As designed, salinity at the Alton discharge location must mirror the conditions in the river, MacLean said.

    “If a technical or economic alternative to brine release is identified, Alton would be open to exploring that,” MacLean said.

    The company announced recently that the anticipated start date for storing gas in the caverns has been moved up to sometime in 2021. Prior to that undetermined date, the brining process will take two to three years.

    The project is strongly opposed by area residents, environmentalists and the nearby Indian Brook First Nation.

  • 13 Apr 2018 6:09 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    You wouldn’t know to look at the beautiful lake which borders the city of Sudbury in northern Ontario, but the lake is in crisis.

    The small city of over 160,000 is billed as the “city of lakes” but gets much of its drinking water from the large Ramsey Lake. That might not be possible in a few years, and the entire lake ecosystem could be severely damaged.

    A report this week says sodium levels are at about three times the level where people on sodium restricted diets must be notified and chloride levels are nearing a concentration that can harm aquatic life.

    The Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance released its reporte this week.

    Five Million tonnes

    Canada uses some five million tonnes of industrial salt to combat snow and ice on roads to make them safer in winter.

    The reason is road salt, and it’s an issue that’s becoming an increasing concern in areas around Canada.

    All that salty meltwater runs off into the environment where it become toxic to plants and aquatic life.

    John Gunn, a Canada Research Chair on stressed aquatic systems, was one of the panelists gathered by the Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance meeting on Monday.  . Quoted by the CBC he noted that   “As salt rises you have to assume that most things that leave the land and other pollutants or nutrients are also entering the lake”.  He pointed out the salt issue is an indicator of how we’re treating our land and waterways.

    The meeting discussed several possible alternatives from using less salt, to using sand and abrasives only in the watershed area, to seeking de-icing alternative more eco-friendly products such as beet, pickle, or potato juice.

    Attendees said that the city should spend as much money on watershed management and ensuring clean water as its investments into new casino and new arts centre.

  • 22 Mar 2018 6:12 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    World Water Day, on 22 March every year, is about focusing attention on the importance of water. The theme for World Water Day 2018 is ‘Nature for Water’ – exploring nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century.

    Damaged ecosystems affect the quantity and quality of water available for human consumption. Today, 2.1 billion people live without safe drinking water at home; affecting their health, education and livelihoods.

    Sustainable Development Goal 6 commits the world to ensuring that everyone has access to safe water by 2030, and includes targets on protecting the natural environment and reducing pollution.

    Take action

    Wherever you are and whatever you do on March 22, make it about nature and water.

  • 23 Feb 2018 3:45 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    The Ontario NDP is calling on the provincial government to release details of its revised arrangement with one of the maintenance contractors responsible for plowing and sanding the province's highways.

    Carillion Canada has contracts to maintain the highways in eight different parts of the province; in the north, that includes from Thunder Bay east to Marathon and Longlac and around the Huntsville area. Carillion's Canadian subsidiary received creditor protection after its U.K.-based parent went into liquidation in January.

    At the time, the province and Carillion announced they reached an arrangement "to ensure these services continue uninterrupted for the remainder of this winter." In the legislature on Wednesday, Ontario NDP transportation critic Wayne Gates said he wanted more details.

    "It's impossible to say anything for sure because the government will not release the contract," Gates told CBC News. "The contract's being paid by ... taxpayers' money; that agreement should be given to all the residents of Ontario."

    "If you have an agreement with Carillion to last until May, or whatever the length of the agreement is, they have, I believe they have an obligation to release that ... so we can see the agreement," he continued.

    In its creditor protection filing, Carillion said cash flow projections showed the company "should have sufficient cash on hand to remain operational through the week ending February 17, 2018," and that it would explore additional financing.

    Company spokesperson Cody Johnstone told CBC News on Feb. 22 that "operations are continuing on" but he couldn't get into specifics; he added that Carillion doesn't anticipate any changes to service standards and that all employees continue to be paid.

    The company has said its arrangement with the province "protects over 1,100 jobs in Ontario."

    'Paying some key suppliers'

    In response to Gates's query in question period on Wednesday, Minister of Transportation Kathryn McGarry said that under the current arrangement, the province "is paying some key suppliers directly for critical tools like road salt and equipment repair and leasing."

    "We are only paying Carillion for the services they provide, not paying any of Carillion's corporate costs," she continued.

    McGarry, as well as ministry officials, said that the province is "closely monitoring" money paid to the company to ensure employees and suppliers are paid. "To date we have no concerns in that regard," ministry spokesperson Annemarie Piscopo told CBC News.

    Gates said the province's ability to ensure highways remain safe in the winter should be of the upmost importance. "When you look at the safety of our roads, we're talking about our kids, our grandkids, our first responders," he said.

    Replying to Gates's questions in the legislature, McGarry said opposition parties were engaging in "fear mongering" on the highway file and that she has offered to meet with MPPs concerned with the issue.

    "We are committed to ensure that we have the roads safe and clear for our folks that are travelling the highway," she said. "Our number one priority is to make sure that we keep our roads safe right to the end of the winter season."

  • 14 Feb 2018 3:31 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Ramsey needs the same investment and big thinking the city is putting into 'the casino and performing art centre,' says director of Living With Lakes Centre.

    The impact of road salt on watersheds — a topic of rising concern in communities across Ontario — was the topic of a well-attened and at times passionate panel discussion Monday evening at the Vale Living With Lakes Centre. 

    The message from the expert panel was clear: Road salt is compromising the projected health of Ramsey Lake and if conservation-wise management is not undertaken by the city promptly, the long-term health of the drinking water source for 50,000 Sudburians, not to mention the flora and fauna that call the lake and its environs home, will be in jeopardy.

    The discussion was chaired by former Kirkland Lake mayor, long-time environmentalist and conservationist and retired physician Dr. Richard Denton. Filling out the panel was Dr. John Gunn, Canada Research Chair, Stressed Aquatic Systems and the director of the Vale Living with Lakes Centre; Dr. Charles Ramcharan, an associate professor in the School of Environment at Laurentian University; and Anoop Naik, a water resources specialist at Conservation Sudbury.

    The panelists agreed the presence of road salt is increasing in several of the city's waterways, but Ramsey Lake is of particular concern.

    "There's very good evidence from testing the drinking water that Ramsey Lake in particular has been steadily going up for decades," said Gunn. "There's no reason not to expect that it will continue to rise, but at what rate is another question."

    Approximately 50,000 Sudburians rely on Ramsey Lake for their drinking water. Lake Wanapitei is another source of the city's water, but that lake contains considerably less salt than what has been found in Ramsey, panelists said. 

    While probably easier said than done, the only option for addressing Ramsey's high levels of salt is to stop adding it to the lake, panelists said. Road salt is the primary cause of deposits in the waterway and it can be difficult to remove, they said. Plus, Naik added, it doesn't appear municipal water treatment is doing the job. 

    "When I superimposed both the treated water from David's Creek Treatment Centre and the raw water (from Ramsey Lake), there's hardly any difference," he said. "On the contrary, the treated water actually adds a few milligrams per litre of sodium."

    High salt content poses dangers to aquatic life in the lake, dangers to people with hypertension who get their drinking water from the lake and lowered property values on account of increased algal blooms. At 55 milligrams per litre, the salt content of the lake is at the point people should be concerned, Ramcharan said.

    "We are in the yellow. We're already at a sodium level where there are human health concerns," Ramcharan said. "Doctors at the health unit will be telling their patients that they have to be careful drinking Ramsey Lake water if they are on a low-sodium diet.

    We are already at that level."

    "Salt concentration is increasing in our drinking water," Denton said. "It needs to be addressed and now is the time to do it."

    Alternatives to using salt on icy roads exist, the panelists said, mentioning treating roadways and sidewalks agricultural with things like beet juice, pickle juice or potato juice. Alternatively, substances that improve traction could include wood chips used in conjunction with salt. "Eco-traction" is a new technology that uses volcanic mineral that easily embeds itself into ice and snow.

    "The city had an enormous vision around the 100-year Ramsey Lake Plan," Gunn said, while motioning to the darkened sight of Lake Ramsey beyond the room's half enclosure of glass. "That plan is nearly a quarter of the way through. More than 25 years has gone by and we don't quite see the vision out the window that we imagined at the time.

    "The same kind of investments as we are putting into the casino and the performance art centre, it needs that same scale of thinking and investment to make (Sudbury) this really attractive technology centre around clean water where quality of life and knowledge infrastructure is surrounded by lakes and a  better place to live than say, Silicon Valley or a place called Toronto."

  • 14 Feb 2018 6:30 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    If you live anywhere that gets nasty weather, you’re familiar with the trucks that lumber along the roads and dump whatever it takes to keep everything moving. Exactly what they’re dropping will depend on where you are, what the weather’s like, how much money your municipality has to spend, and what kind of trucks it owns.

    Of course, you also have to think about what that stuff is doing to your vehicle. Here’s a rundown on what might be out on your roads.

    Rock Salt

    Plain rock salt, properly known as sodium chloride, is the great old grandpa of the snow-plow set. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and because it’s been around so long, virtually every municipality has equipment to spread it. It’s also just lying in wait and smirking until it gets its salty hands on your vehicle.

    Plain water freezes at 0°C. Salt lowers its freezing point, so it stays liquid instead of turning to ice when the thermometer drops below that. Salt needs to mix with the ice to be effective, and doesn’t do much if it’s just sitting on top of it. The streets can still be slippery if you’re the first one out after the salt truck has passed, because it’s the traffic driving over the salt that works it into the ice so it can do its business.

    Sodium chloride’s major drawback is that it’s an environmental nightmare. It kills vegetation and pollutes waterways, and it destroys concrete and rusts metal. If the roads in your area are salted, wash your vehicle frequently in winter, paying special attention to the undercarriage. Take it to the do-it-yourself, or use a pressure washer, and spray under the vehicle until the water runs clear.

    Salt Brine

    The name says it all: liquid mixed with sodium chloride, and sometimes other de-icers, sprayed on the roads with specialized trucks. It’s not applied to existing ice, but rather, it’s put down before bad weather is expected, and it dries and sticks to the road. When snow or freezing rain falls, that thin dried-brine layer prevents ice from sticking to the asphalt, making it easier for plows to scrape the surface clean.

    Environmentally speaking, brine is better than rock salt, because less is required. It also stays where it’s put, at least initially. But it still washes onto the shoulders and into whatever green stuff grows alongside once the ice melts. When the weather warms up, that brine-salt coating gets moist and very sticky, and your tires will happily propel it into your vehicle’s nether regions. In addition to turning your sheet metal into Swiss cheese, it also attacks wiring, which can affect your ride’s electronics. Some jurisdictions add an anti-corrosion solution, but don’t count on that to save you. As with rock salt, keep your vehicle’s underside clean throughout the winter months.

    Pre-Wetted Salt

    A combination of the previous two, this is rock salt sprayed with salt brine before it’s deployed. Rock salt bounces when it hits the pavement and often vaults right into the ditch, where it doesn’t do anybody any good. Pre-wetted salt is more likely to stay where it lands. The brine also speeds up the process of turning ice into salty water. This salt-and-brine combination is just as bad for the environment, and for your vehicle, as either one alone.

    Beet Juice

    Beet what? Yes, some municipalities are spreading vegetables on the roads. It’s the liquid left over when sugar beets are refined into sweetener. It’s mixed with salt and used like brine, but it’s a little better on the environmental side.

    It’s similar to salt-and-water brine, but beet juice is stickier – it’s basically thin molasses – and it does an even better job of gluing the thin salt layer to the asphalt, making it more effective. It can also lower the freezing point to −32°C for better cold-weather protection. It’s more expensive than mixing salt with water, but it can reduce salt use by up to 60 percent. Some municipalities save it for areas with extra environmental concerns, such as roads that run through wetlands or cross rivers.

    Beet juice isn’t the only foodstuff doing double duty on the roads. Depending on what’s available from local suppliers, some municipalities may use cheese brine, pickle juice, or spent grain mash from beer or liquor production. As far as your vehicle goes, consider beet juice to be an even stickier method of adhering salt to your sheet metal.


    Rock salt isn’t the only thing that’ll turn ice to water. There are other de-icers that work even better, including magnesium chloride, potassium chloride, and urea. Rock salt gives up starting around −12°C, but calcium chloride keeps working down to about −30°C, and creates heat when it gets damp so it works even faster. Meanwhile, potassium acetate can do its job when the temperature dips as low as −60°C, and it’s biodegradable to boot.

    But you never get something for nothing. Calcium chloride is about twice the price of rock salt, while potassium acetate costs about eight times as much.

    The price of alternatives limits their use, and they’re spread mostly on smaller areas such as sidewalks. However, some municipalities mix them with larger volumes of rock salt for roads. If they end up on your vehicle, they tend to break the metal’s molecules apart, and they can potentially do more damage than sodium chloride alone.


    At the coldest temperatures, nothing’s going to turn ice to liquid, and that’s when sand comes in. Rather than melting the ice, it sits on top and helps give drivers some traction. It doesn’t present much of an environmental issue – other than the fact that, worldwide, we’re starting to face a global shortage of sand – although it has to be swept up or shovelled away once winter has passed.

    It’s reserved for Canada’s most frigid areas, since it would have to be reapplied too often in regions that regularly thaw and freeze. The resulting accumulation could clog the storm drains. Other than its abrasive effect when it’s tossed by the wind or other vehicles driving alongside, it’s not a hazard for your fenders.

    Pickled Sand

    Sand has a tendency to clump if it gets moist, which can gum up the sanding trucks. To avoid clogging, it’s sometimes mixed with salt, at five to 10 percent of its volume, and the mixture is known as pickled sand. While it’s far less of a problem than a dump of 100 percent rock salt – again – wash your vehicle regularly if your municipality uses it.

    Extra Protection

    All dry de-icers are hygroscopic, meaning they absorb moisture, since they need at least a bit of liquid to start the process. That’s bad news for your vehicle, since even a dry layer of salt dust will eventually draw humidity when the temperature warms up, and that salty liquid is hungry for metal. Invest in undercoating or oil spray before winter, and make sure to get all the nooks and crannies: inside the doors, behind the tail lights, and inside the tailgate if you drive a truck. Wax your vehicle often, and touch up stone chips as soon as they happen. Let salt and de-icers do their job on the roads, not on your ride.

© Smart About Salt Council.  Smart About Salt is a trademark and the Smart About Salt logo is a registered trademark of the Smart About Salt Council.

 Terms of Use  Refund Policy  Privacy Statement

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software