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  • 11 Feb 2021 7:18 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Fish antifreeze studied in quest for less-harmful road salts – Finance & Commerce (

    any people associate a fresh snowfall with pleasures like hot chocolate and winter sports. But for city dwellers, it can also mean caked-on salt that sticks to shoes, clothing hems and cars. That’s because as soon as the mercury dips below freezing and precipitation is in the forecast, local governments start spreading de-icing salts to keep roads from freezing over.

    These salts are typically a less-refined form of table salt, or sodium chloride, but can also include other compounds, such as magnesium chloride and potassium chloride. They work by lowering the freezing point of water.

    De-icing salts also do extensive damage to autos, infrastructure and the environment. And cities use them in enormous quantities – nearly 20 million tons per year in the U.S. Snowbelt cities in Canada, Europe and Japan also use de-icing salts heavily.

    But new options are in the works. I am a materials scientist seeking solutions for our overly salted sidewalks by analyzing ways in which the natural world deals with ice. Fish, insects and even some plants have learned to adapt to cold climates over hundreds of thousands of years by making their own antifreeze agents to survive subfreezing temperatures. By taking a page from nature, my colleagues and I hope to develop effective but more benign antifreeze compounds.

    Harmful impacts of salt

    As many drivers know too well, road salt reduces cars’ lives by speeding up the rusting process. A 2010 study estimated that the use of de-icing salts costs U.S. drivers $23.4 billion dollars nationwide yearly in vehicle damage due to corrosion.

    Road salts also damage the surfaces we drive on. They contain chlorine ions – atoms with a negative charge – that alter the chemistry of water and make it more corrosive when it comes in contact with materials like concrete and steel.

    As a result, road salts increase existing strains on aging structures. De-icing salts have contributed to bridge failures and cause cracking and other forms of weathering in highway surfaces.

    De-icing salts have widespread effects in nature too. If you drive along a forested road after a long snowy winter, you may notice that trees next to the road look a little more brown than the others. That’s because road salts displace minerals in soil and groundwater, creating a condition known as physiological drought.

    This means that trees cannot take up water through their roots even if it is freely available in the soil. When natural drought conditions already exist, in such places as Colorado, physiological drought can increase the risk of wildfires by making plants more prone to ignition.

    Streams, rivers and lakes are especially vulnerable to water runoff that contains de-icing salts. Chlorine from the salt can inhibit fish from spawning and reduce dissolved oxygen levels in the water, which harms fish and other aquatic life. Salt-laden runoff can also promote the growth of dangerous cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae. Some forms of blue-green algae produce toxins that can sicken humans or animals that consume them in drinking water.

    Natural antifreezes

    An alternative de-icing option should be nontoxic and break down into benign components – but not too quickly, or its effects won’t last. To see why this is important, consider propyplene glycol, which is used to de-ice aircraft.

    Propylene glycol is preferred for this purpose because it is less toxic than the ethylene glycol that keeps your car radiator from freezing up. But propylene glycol’s effects are short-lived, so aircraft typically can wait for only a limited period between de-icing and takeoff. This is also why propylene glycol is rarely sprayed on roadways and surfaces. Furthermore, although it is generally classified as safe for humans, it can still be deadly for aquatic life.

    What about natural alternatives? Scientists have found insects and spiders in Alaska that create antifreeze proteins in their bodies that lower the freezing point of water by a few degrees. And some fish, like the Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni), create antifreeze glycoproteins that prevent the blood in their veins from freezing in the coldest waters on Earth.

    Most of these glycoproteins are delicate structures that break down quickly in the harsh outside world. But my colleagues and I are learning how to make our own antifreeze compounds through imitation. Our first challenge is to learn how the natural versions work so we can re-create them.

    While there’s still much we don’t understand, we are using advanced computer modeling to see how antifreeze proteins interact with water molecules. Other scientists have discovered that fish antifreeze glycoproteins contain two main segments, and that certain sections are more essential than others.

    Specifically, small compounds called hydroxyl groups, which consist of hydrogen and oxygen atoms, do most of the work. These small compounds lock into place with water molecules, like a key in a lock, to prevent ice from forming. They are also part of most critical sections of the proteins that bind to the surface of any developing ice crystals and prevent them from getting bigger.

    Antifreeze proteins are natural polymers – enormous long molecules consisting of smaller repeating molecules, like links in a chain. Re-creating these compounds is no easy task, but we can create our own synthetic versions in a lab, starting with polyvinyl alcohol, or PVA. This is a simple, inexpensive compound that is nontoxic to humans and aquatic life and is a common ingredient in many everyday personal care products.

    PVA contains the same hydroxyl groups as those found in fish antifreeze proteins. Using a bit of chemical engineering, we can change where those hydroxyls are located in the polymer structure, making it more like the compounds that fish produce. In the future, we may be able to change PVA from an everyday compound into an ice-fighting substance that can be used just about anywhere.

    Because PVA doesn’t degrade too quickly, it has the potential to work on surfaces that need to stay ice-free, such as roads, sidewalks and handrails. Its long chemical structure makes it suitable for shaping and adapting into sprays or coatings. Someday cities may rely in winter on nontoxic spray-on antifreezes that won’t stain your clothes or corrode your car.

  • 08 Feb 2021 10:36 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    With support from Ontario’s Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) the Smart About Salt Council (SASC) announced today that it has developed and implemented the first of its kind program verification protocol.

    Linked to SASC’s award-winning training and certification programs for winter maintenance contractors, facility owners/operators, municipal roads professionals and others, the verification protocol is a timely and first of its kind much coaching and feedback tool that will help SASC encourage the use of best management practices (BMP’s) in winter maintenance.

    “Safety is paramount” said SASC volunteer President Eric Hodgins. Multiple studies confirm that there is a growing problem of chlorides in the environment that is having a negative impact on wildlife, drinking water and infrastructure. The challenge arises from the poor understanding of salt, typically sodium chloride (NaCl) (the very same product that is on your French fries), that is used in winter maintenance.

    “We’re learning that there are better ways to promote safety while reducing the costs associated with winter maintenance”, shared Hodgins. “Little things can often have a big difference. For example, using salt in a brine solution has been shown to improve safety but also be a cost-effective winter maintenance practice that should be considered as part of any winter maintenance strategy” he added.

    A partnership effort by industry and government in 2009 led to the creation of the Smart About Salt Council, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to protecting freshwater resources from the over application of salt. The Smart About Salt Council is unique, working transnationally to offer win-win education, certification and now verification that seeks to engage winter maintenance professionals and the public to adopt leading practices in winter maintenance.

    “We help those facility owner and operators work with their contractors and others so that facilities and the public are protected. It’s about collaboration and awareness so that everyone concerned benefits, including our water resources” noted Hodgins.

    For more information about the Smart About Salt Council (SASC) and its award-winning training programs please visit

  • 01 Feb 2021 7:39 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Ariganello: Halt the (road) salt assault, Ottawa | Ottawa Citizen

    It’s the time of year when we either take out the shovels or take out the road salt.

    De-icing your steps and driveway using traditional road salt comes at a steep environmental and financial price. Environmentally it increases the salinity (salt content) of soils, damages plants, contaminates ground and surface water, and leads to the death of aquatic life. Financially, because salt is corrosive, it damages fabric, metal (cars, trucks, bicycles) and our roads. This can total more than $5 billion a year.

    What is the issue exactly? When road salt dissolves in water, it forms sodium and chloride ions; it is the chloride ions that are most problematic for roadside plants, for aquatic ecosystems and particularly amphibians, fish and invertebrates. Chloride ions are quite persistent in water, so the chloride concentration in streams can remain high long after its initial introduction.

    Recent results from a study by the Ottawa Riverkeeper revealed that chloride levels in Pinecrest, Graham and Moore creeks exceeded the Canadian Council of Minister for the Environment (CCME) chronic toxicity threshold in all samples assessed, and exceeded the acute (short-term) toxicity threshold on several occasions. From January through March (as a direct result of the application of road salt), all three creeks contained chloride concentrations at a level that was unsafe for many aquatic organisms. As well, other studies have shown that increasing the saltiness (salinity) of natural water ways can make it easier for invasive and toxic species to thrive and spread.

    Canadians use up to seven million tonnes of salt each year to help clear icy roads. Salt corrosion is pricey and dangerous for cars as it can damage brakes and increases vehicle depreciation, with an estimated cost of $800 a year (updated for inflation). Although corrosion-resistant coatings have improved, they are hardly “green.”

    Salt also corrodes the rebar in many concrete structures such as bridges and buildings, leading to their accelerated destruction. It is estimated that total damage done by road salt on infrastructure is as high as $687 per tonne of salt – a high price to pay when alternatives exist.

    Two alternatives that are easier on your wallet, your pets and the environment were tested last year by Ottawa residents as part of the “Halt the Salt Challenge” organized by the Ottawa South Eco Action Network. Residents found that traction aids Ecotraction (a volcanic mineral) and Eco Ice Grip (wood chips impregnated with magnesium chloride) were both helpful in preventing slips and falls, with the added bonus that they are made in Canada.

    This year, before reaching for the salt, consider what you want to achieve. Do you need to completely melt the ice and snow on your driveway? Or do you just need to make sure there is a safe path to walk for you, your neighbours and your kids (four-legged or two)? If you want to minimize your financial and environmental impact answer these three questions:

    • Am I choosing the right product? (Road salt will melt ice, while traction aids such as Eco Ice grip will prevent you from slipping.)

    • Am I using the right amount? (2 tbsp of road salt will melt one square metre of space.)

    • Am I applying it at the right time? (Road salt only melts ice above -15 C; if it’s colder than that, or going to get colder, you are throwing your money away. During early winter and spring, check the weather: if it’s going to warm up significantly over the next day, you may not need to use anything)

    If you find, like other residents, that the alternatives are effective, consider approaching your condo board, apartment landlord and even the city, to reassess what type of product they use, or how much and when they use it. We have all seen the piles of road salt that can be left behind, wasting our tax dollars, damaging our roads and our cars. We can do better – and there is much benefit to be had.

    Marianne Ariganello is a resident of Ottawa South, a mother of two, a scientist and a climate advocate. She is a member of the environmental group Ottawa South Eco Action Network, which works to build a more sustainable Ottawa. Twitter: OSEAN_Ottawa

  • 29 Jan 2021 7:56 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Accident at Louisiana salt mine leads Cargill to accelerate a closing plan -

    Cargill said it accelerate closing plans for a salt mine on Avery Island, La., where two miners died after a roof collapse last month.

    The Minnetonka-based agribusiness said Thursday the accident didn't lead to its shuttering, but it did expedite the company's plans to stop extracting salt from the mine later this year.

    "While the tragic events from December are still on our minds, the driving factor here is the timing," a Cargill spokesman said.

    Salt production has been suspended for the past six weeks while federal investigators work to determine the cause of the fatal accident. Cargill said it had planned to stop hoisting salt from the mine when its lease ends at the close of 2021.

    "With six weeks now behind us, considering the time to get back to full production, low demand for road salt due to a soft winter so far, and the time remaining in our lease, we need to focus our time and energy on safely closing the facility," Cargill said.

    Federal inspectors found several safety violations following the collapse, including ground conditions, improper barricades or escape route signage, according to Mine Safety and Health Administration records.

    The final report has not been released.

    Shuttering a mine is a long, complex process. This one isn't expected to be complete until 2024.

    "We will continue to maintain the integrity of the mine while we work to flood the mine with water and restore the surface to allow Avery Island Inc. to repurpose the land in the future," the company said. "We began drilling the flood shaft back in 2019, before the tragic accident occurred. This process is standard for the closure of a mine."

    Cargill's other two salt mines, in Lansing, N.Y., and Cleveland, will remain open. All three of its underground mines produce salt used to de-ice roads and surfaces in the United States and Canada. The company also produces salt in surface ponds through the evaporation process, including at its Breaux Bridge, La., facility, all of which will remain open.

    "This was a difficult business decision, but ultimately the right one as we considered the future economics of the mine's operation and our production capacity until the end of the year," Sonya Roberts, president of Cargill's salt business, said in a statement. "We are confident we will be able to fulfill our customer obligations and do not expect disruptions to their operations."

    The mine currently employs about 200 workers, according to federal mining records.

    Avery Island was the first rock salt mine in the U.S. It's also home to Tabasco sauce, which Edmund McIlhenny created in the 1860s by mixing a spicy red pepper with the island's plentiful salt.

    Cargill has leased the enormous salt mine for more than two decades from an affiliate of McIlhenny Co., which still operates its Tabasco factory on the island.

  • 22 Jan 2021 8:07 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    City of Richmond snow response plan ready for winter weather | Philippine Canadian Inquirer

    The City of Richmond is prepared to respond to any snowfall and icy conditions that may arise during the remaining winter months.

    The City of Richmond’s centralized control centre of experienced staff manage continuous response to snow, ice or severe weather – this includes following updates to weather reports, monitoring road surface conditions around the city through six road temperature sensors and dispatching equipment and crews in advance of and during weather events.

    The City of Richmond’s snow response plan includes the use of 41 specialized pieces of equipment and vehicles. The City’s Works Yard is stocked with 1,000 tonnes of salt onsite, with additional 2,200 tonnes on reserve. A secondary location outside of the Operations Works Yard will also be stocked with salt to reduce travel times and increase efficiencies for snow removal equipment working on the east side of Richmond.

    Snow plow routes
    When it snows, the City’s priority is to ensure all major arterial roads are pre-treated and cleared so emergency vehicles including police, ambulance and fire trucks, public transit and private vehicles can travel through Richmond’s priority routes.

    First and second priority routes are pre-established and are the first to be cleared. Third priority routes consist of designated collector roads and roads of local significance. Third priority routes are salted and cleared only when first and second priority routes have been addressed. To view existing snow removal priority routes, visit

    If a significant multi-day snowfall event happens, City Public Works staff switch to 24/7 coverage where crews work 12 hour shifts clearing snow, laying down anti-icing liquid brine and/or salting roads to keep frost or ice from forming. This strategy is kept in place until priority roads are clear and conditions change.

    For more information on the City’s snow response, visit Updates during snow and ice events will be posted on Twitter at and Facebook at Please follow Environment Canada and other reliable sources for updates on weather.

    Stay safe in winter weather
    The City of Richmond encourages residents to get a head start on preparing for upcoming winter weather conditions – especially with the current ongoing pandemic. Remember, plan ahead for bad weather and if in doubt, don’t go out.

    The residents guide to winter weather includes safety and preparedness tips and is available on the City’s website at:

    COVID-19 safety measures are also in place for all City staff, including snow response crews working indoors and outdoors. All City of Richmond staff must wear a mask:

    • While at work in City buildings, facilities and designated work areas when physical distancing cannot be maintained
    • When entering and exiting City buildings and facilities
    • When in a City vehicle with more than one person.

    Shovel your sidewalk – it’s your responsibility 
    Traffic Bylaw 5870 requires residential (single-family and multi-family) owners, commercial and industrial and occupants to clear snow and ice from sidewalks adjacent to their properties no later than 10 a.m. every day.

    A few other reminders:

    • Shovel snow onto lawns or into designated parking stalls, not the street. Shovelling snow onto the street is a hazard for vehicles and creates more work for snow plows, which then slows down the clearing process.
    • Ensure accessible parking stalls on your property are clear of snow and ice.
    • Keep storm drains and grates around home and business properties clear of snow and debris to prevent blocking them, which causes pooling as temperatures warm.

    Heavy snowfall can create challenges for many residents. If you can, be a good neighbour and lend a hand to others in need of snow removal assistance (while keeping your distance).

  • 16 Dec 2020 7:02 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?: Crews sanding roads in Muskoka Lakes for winter | The Star

    With all road and infrastructure projects complete this year in the Muskoka Lakes Township, the public works team is focused on making its communities safe for all to navigate during the winter. Crews are out on heavy snow days maintaining roads to snowpack condition with plowing and applying winter sand and salt.


    • The township is responsible for maintaining all roads in Muskoka Lakes except for Highways 118 West and 169, which the District of Muskoka oversees.

    • The only road in Muskoka Lakes where crews spread salt is Peninsula Road (District Road 7).

    • Winter sanding is the alternative to salting on rural and residential roads, or used alongside salting. Sand provides traction control.

    • The township’s public works technician, Tim Sopkowe, says salt is used when the temperature is above -10 C. Below this, they switch to sand because salt is ineffective.

    • “We have only been out a few times so far this year, but everything has gone well,” Sopkowe wrote in an email. “We are fully mobilized and ready for winter.”

    Zahraa Hmood is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering the municipalities of Muskoka Lakes, Lake of Bays and Georgian Bay. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

  • 07 Dec 2020 7:34 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Where's my plow? Ontario 511 app allows motorists to track snowplows on highways in Ottawa and eastern Ontario (

    Looking for information on snowplow operations on Highway 417, Highway 416 and Highway 401 during the first significant snowfall of the year – there's an app for that!

    Ontario's 511 app includes information on the location of snowplows and salt trucks on provincial highways and road conditions. 

    The Ontario Government announced the Ontario 511 app has been expanded in time for winter to include features for drivers and the trucking industry to plan trips.

    The Ontario 511 app includes "Track My Plow", which will allow drivers to track the location of snowplows and salt trucks on provincial highways.

    The government says the Ontario 511 app shares information on winter road conditions so drivers can see which roads are bare or covered snow. It will also post Environment Canada weather warnings.

    "Driving during the winter months can be a challenge in every part of the province, and our government remains committed to keeping Ontario's roads and highways safe," said Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation.

    "That's why we are enhancing the Ontario 511 app with winter safety features that will provide drivers with even more information so they navigate the best route."

    The Ontario 511 app also provides images from over 600 cameras and includes up-to-date highway information on construction, collisions and road closures.

  • 07 Dec 2020 7:31 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    People are already complaining of over-salting on Toronto streets and sidewalks (

    It's winter in Toronto once again, meaning along with miserably early sunsets and freezing temperatures, residents can prepare for a whole lot more snow than the sprinkling we've seen so far.

    And with the snowfall inevitably comes ice, and with that, corrosive road salt that stains boots, burns doggo paws, and can even rust cars.

    Though it's very much appreciated that the city ensures sidewalks and roadways are salted for pedestrian and driver safety in slippery conditions, it seems that sometimes, workers can go a little overboard with the salting — and a few days into December, people already have thoughts on the subject.

    Citizens have been taking to social media ever since Toronto's first snowfall of the season to complain about city staffers' seeming lack of control when salting some areas, citing thick layers of the rocky chemical chunks long after the snow and ice has melted.

    Though road salt is simply halite — the raw mineral form of sodium chloride, or table salt — it can often include anti-caking agents and other chemical additives, and throws off the balance of waterways and soil, along with being dangerous to animals and the environment in general when used in excessive quantities.

    "In some urban streams, salt has reached levels high enough to kill organisms," writes the Carey Institute of Ecosystem Studies in a special report on the material.

    "However, lower than lethal levels can affect the ability of organisms to function, which impacts the overall health and function of the ecosystem."

    It is for this reason, in part, that members of the public are worried about potential over-salting, along with the fact that it's just plain ugly to look at, hard to walk on, damaging to outerwear and a waste of city time and tax dollars when far too much of it is dispersed.

    But, it's understandably tough to reach the perfect level between not enough and too much.

    According to a report from last month, the city spends $11 million or so dumping around 250 million pounds of rock salt on our roadways over the course of a typical winter — an absolutely staggering amount.

    The city says it does its due dilligence to balance everyone's safety with concern for the environment, though. In fact, Toronto was the first major municipality in Canada to introduce a Salt Management Plan, which it has been abiding by since 2001.

    Hoping to get a response here in #TorontoDanforth from our local elected officials @peter_tabuns @paulafletcherto what our next steps are on combatting over use of destructive salt that leads into our #sharedwaters during the winter months HT @RAP_Toronto

    According to Eric Holmes of Toronto Strategic Communications, the plan ensures proper training of salt distributers, features automated and specially calibrated applicators on trucks to ensure a proper amount of the stuff is doled out, and uses road temperature sensors to " ensure salt is only applied where necessary."

    The city also actively uses other materials, like sand and salt brine, a liquid compound that leaves less salt on the road while still effectively removing ice and snow.

    "The City is aware that use of rock salt on roads is associated with negative environmental impacts and City staff work to reduce those impacts as much as possible by actively managing salt use," Holmes told blogTO, adding that citizens also have to do their best to make sure they aren't using too much salt on their own private property.

    "Residents who are concerned about the amount of salt used on the sidewalk or road can notify 311 and file a service request. The City also reminds private contractors and residents, when necessary to keep routes safe for people, to use an appropriate amount of salt. This information is usually available on the packaging or from the salt manufacturer."

    As we enter the chilly time of year, make sure to watch where you step and to invest in some protective booties for your furry friends if walking them on sidewalks and roads.

    And as for the salt stains? A mix of equal parts white vinegar and water will do the trick.

  • 04 Dec 2020 9:02 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Winter Car Prep Done Right –

    The winter season is almost upon us, which means it’s time once again to start thinking about what you should be doing with your vehicle to help best prepare for winter driving.

    Before we do so, though, know this: my mother always told my younger self whenever she’d deny my request to borrow the car that “it’s not about you. There’s a bell curve when it comes to driving skill, and most drivers you’ll come across are at the lower end of that curve.” Read: no matter how prepared your vehicle is for winter driving, it’s probably safe to assume there are drivers out there who haven’t done so and it’s on you to be vigilant and very clear on what’s going on around you, what conditions are like ahead, and so forth.

    Winter is here – you need winter tires

    Which brings me to my first point: snow tires. In my home province of British Columbia, you’ll see signs asking you to put on snow or “M + S” tires if you’re driving on certain B.C. roads between October 1 and April 30. “M + S” stands for “mud and snow” and while they are designed to offer better traction in those adverse conditions – deeper snow and mud — it doesn’t follow that they are actually “snow” tires which are demarcated with a snowflake graphic on their sidewall. You see, proper winter tires not only get different tread patterns, but they get different rubber compounds as well that are meant to work in sub-seven degree Celsius temperatures.

    M + S tires don’t necessarily have that feature so if the road surface on which you’re driving is cold or has a small dusting of frost or snow, these tires will not be as effective as proper winter tires. As far as I and many of my colleagues are concerned, the fact that B.C. allows for M + S tires as well as snow tires on those roads are not enough. If you’re really talking safety first, then a snow tire is the way to go.

    Not to mention that there are often other perks.

    “Often times, insurance companies will give you a break on your insurance if you have snow tires,” says John Polumbo, a professional vehicle detailer that works with Penske Vehicle Services in Toronto, Ont.. “(Snow tires) aren’t mandatory in Ontario, but every year, I see more and more people buying (them).” For his part, both Polumbo and his wife have winter tires on their vehicles.

    However, by no means should anyone assume that just because they have all-wheel drive (AWD) it means they don’t need snow tires. Yes, AWD does provide added mechanical traction by shuffling power to and fro to the tires that have grip, but if you don’t have proper rubber meeting the road, AWD will only take you as far as your tires can. Please, folks – don’t make the costly error of thinking AWD increases your car’s “invulnerability” factor.

    The value of rust proofing

    Speaking of “invulnerable”, we turn to your car’s exterior – we’ll get to the interior in a minute – and the ever-moving goalposts of rust proofing. It depends on the climate in which you live; most of Canada lives under a blanket of snow and salt in the winter, and as Polumbo says, “salt and moisture is a bed for rust.”

    In Polumbo’s eyes, how you proceed with rust proofing really depends on whether you own or are leasing your car.

    “A car will not rust in four years (on a lease) as long as you keep it clean,” he says. “I wash my car once a week during the winter.” Focus on getting rid of all the grime and sludge that builds up around – and within – the wheel wells. That may seem strange, as we all know it’s just going to get dirty again but it’s crucial for keeping rust off. So if you’re on a short-term lease, this method works and you could probably get away without rust proofing.

    Don’t neglect your fluids and wipers

    If you own your car and full rust-proofing isn’t in the cards, waxing can help, too, as it keeps cars cleaner and makes it tougher for sludge to build up. Speaking of pre-emptive strikes, Polumbo says that monthly applications of Rain-X, the windshield coating spray used to help water bead or stream off windscreens, will also help in snowy and icy conditions because it also makes it tougher on those water forms to build up on glass. While you’re at it: as good as Rain-X is, the company itself recommends you change your wiper blades every six months.

    Speaking of wipers: keep that fluid topped up. A bottle every two weeks in the winter is not uncommon; on the coldest days road spray can freeze almost instantaneously, forcing fluid shots every five minutes or so. Needless to say, you’ll want a lot of this; best keep an extra bottle in your trunk.

    Winter and the interior of your vehicle

    So there are a number of ways to prep your car’s exterior, but what about the interior? Salt build-up from boots and pant legs can damage a car’s interior, so switching from your car’s showroom-spec carpets to a rubberized year-round set should be job number one; manufacturers like WeatherTech make mats to fit the footwells and trunks of many vehicles, and they are often easy to clean with a simple high pressure hose.

    If the mats aren’t for you, a fabric protector such as Scotchgard 303 Fabric Guard will partially prevent salt buildup on the mats; if you’re more of the elbow grease type, a mix of vinegar and water will act as a stain remover, as long as you’re prepared to air out your car a little to be rid of the vinegar smell. If taking the time to air your car out isn’t an option, there are products such as Salt Eraser spray that are specific to salt removal.

    Canadian winters are tough but with just a little vigilance, we can all make them that much easier to drive through.

  • 04 Dec 2020 9:00 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Governor signs Adirondack road salt reduction bill | News, Sports, Jobs - Adirondack Daily Enterprise

    After months of requests from North County advocacy groups, local governments and state representatives, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Randy Preston Road Salt Reduction Act late Wednesday night. It is intended to reduce road salt pollution in the Adirondacks, and it becomes law just as concerns about snow, salt and safety on the roads are making their annual appearance.

    However, any reduction in salt use is still at least a year away, and will only be a trial run. Relief from salt runoff corrupting wells, rivers and lakes — and rusting vehicles — is a long way off.

    “We’ve been using salt on our roads for about 50 years, and in that time … by my math, about 7 million tons of salt have been put on our roads, and a lot of it has accumulated in our soils and groundwater,” said Dan Kelting, executive director of the Adirondack Watershed Institute at Paul Smith’s College. “No matter what we do, it’s going to take a considerable amount of time to reverse the contamination of folks’ drinking water.”

    The legislation will create the Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force, which will research alternatives to salt spreading on winter roads and submit its recommendations by Sept. 1, 2021. Then these recommendations will be carried out in a three-year road salt application reduction pilot program, while keeping highway safety as a top priority.

    Legacy and legislation

    The bill is named after Wilmington town Supervisor Randy Preston, who died after a battle with cancer in July 2019. Preston was known for years as a strong advocate for limiting excess road salt use. He was the co-chair of the Adirondack Road Salt Working Group.

    The two houses of state Legislature almost unanimously passed the bill in July, but it has sat on Cuomo’s desk since then, awaiting his signature. All the while, government leaders and green groups have persistently asked him to sign it, kicking off research and trial runs of salt alternatives.

    Adirondack Council Director of Communications John Sheehan said the state Department of Transportation had concerns about expenses when this bill was proposed.

    “But given the limited scope of the initial pilot project, I think that it’s something they can pretty well absorb into their budget.”

    Now that Cuomo has signed the bill, conservation and other advocacy groups are praising Cuomo for putting the plan into action.

    The Adirondack Council gathered a press release with quotes from leaders of AdkAction, the Ausable River Association, the Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter, the New York League of Conservation Voters, the Adirondack Mountain Club and the Council’s own executive director, William Janeway.

    “We thank Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders for addressing road salt pollution now, before it becomes as widespread and damaging to the environment and economy as acid rain,” Janeway wrote in a press release. “We should have safe roads and clean water. Corrosive, salty water is bad for everything it touches: lakes, rivers, fish, roads, cars, bridges, driveways, pumps, plumbing and people.”

    The bill was sponsored by North County state legislators including retiring state Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, and Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, who was elected last month to take Little’s place in the Senate. These three are holding a press conference at 12:30 p.m. Friday in Saranac Lake’s Berkeley Green to discuss this new legislation.

    The bill was also sponsored by Sen. Tim Kennedy, the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee who represents the Buffalo area.

    Slippery situation

    Salt is used to melt ice on slippery roads in the winter, but when it runs off into waterways and wells, its sodium content can have corrupting effects, altering aquatic life, making well water undrinkable and rusting out houses’ plumbing and appliances.

    “Salt-contaminated drinking water is a serious public health hazard for people with high blood pressure and other health conditions,” Brittany Christenson of AdkAction wrote in a press release. “When it strikes a private well, it can become a costly crisis for local families as they need to buy bottled water and replace appliances, pipes, and even drill a new well.”

    A 2019 study by the Adirondack Watershed Institute found that of 500 Adirondacks wells tested, 64% of these downhill from state roads were found to have sodium levels exceeding the federally recommended health limit. Wells near town and county roads were shown to be much less affected; town and county highway departments rely more on sand for winter road treatment, whereas the state DOT uses straight salt.

    Kelting said AWI testing shows a “strong correlation” between salty water and state-maintained highways.

    “This convenience that we have is coming at a cost to people’s drinking water and our surface water,” Kelting said. “If people care about that, then we need to have different ways to manage our roads.”

    He said if areas are going to have less or no salt put down, there will need to be engagement with the driving public, informing them that these areas will be more slippery for drivers but safer for water.

    Kelting said the DOT has become more open to working on salt reduction over the years. He said it now partners on pilot programs on state Route 86 in Lake Placid and state Route 9 in Lake George.

    According to Sheehan, preliminary results from pilot salt reduction efforts in Lake George have demonstrated a approximate 30% drop in salt expenses. He said roughly $16 million is spent on road salt in the Adirondacks each year.

    Kelley Tucker of the Ausable River Association wrote that the pilot programs in the Lake George region and on Mirror Lake in Lake Placid show reductions in salt use are possible while maintaining public safety.

    Tucker noted that Mirror Lake’s natural turnover process was interrupted by an accumulation of salt at the bottom of the lake, leading to low oxygen at the lake bottom which threatens its fish population and makes it vulnerable to algal blooms, like the one detected in November.

    Sheehan said by the end of the three-year pilot program the state should better understand how to make the best practices of the program permanent, expand the program to the rest of the state and make it work universally.

    Sheehan said the Adirondack Park’s hard bedrock, thin soil and steep slopes make it the place where road salt damage — like acid rain damage — is likely to appear first.

    Robert Hayes of Clean Water Associate at Environmental Advocates NY called the Adirondacks a “canary in the coal mine” for the rest of the state.

    Less sand and salt?

    Dave Werner of Malone is executive secretary of the Franklin County Traffic Safety Board and writes a weekly traffic safety column for newspapers throughout the region. He recently wrote two columns defending the use of salt over sand for winter road treatment, but he said he’s not opposed to the new law because he favors reducing the amount of both sand and salt used on North Country roads.

    “I think every municipality overuses ice and snow control on all the roads,” he said Thursday.

    “Before COVID I used to go to Canada all the time … and they just put it (salt) down in the center of the road, and the crown of the road plus traffic, they take care of it. … And that’s what we should be doing, things like that, instead of dropping from the center of the truck in the back.

    “When I talk about salt being better than sand,” he added, “I’m really applying the amount of sand they lay down, being 750 to 1,000, sometimes up to 1,200 pounds per lane mile.”

    He thinks drivers can adjust to less-than-bare roads in the thick of an Adirondack winter.

    “Why do we have to drive 65 miles an hour on 55-mile-per-hour roads two hours after it stops snowing?” he said.


    Managing Editor Peter Crowley contributed to this report.

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