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  • 01 Dec 2023 10:18 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Sault Ste. Marie’s plan to make road salt stickier - Sault Ste. Marie News (sootoday.com)

    All across Canada, you'll find former Saultites who heap praise on their hometown's ability to clean up after winter storms.

    "I used Sault Ste. Marie as an example," says Kerry Diotte, who moved to Alberta four decades ago and laid the foundation for a career in municipal and federal politics by writing newspaper columns describing the awesome snow and ice control back in the Sault.

    "I constantly said, places like Sault Ste. Marie and other places I knew in Ontario were far, far superior in terms of getting it done quickly, moving a lot of snow, clearing snow from sidewalks," said Diotte, who's now seeking the Conservative nod to pursue a third term of office representing the federal riding of Edmonton Griesbach.

    "Unfortunately, western Canada has really fallen behind in terms of in terms of matching places like Sault Ste. Marie and other municipalities in Ontario," he told SooToday on Wednesday.

    Last week, Sault Ste. Marie city council agreed to look into changing the way we deal with big snowstorms, and to seek help from western Canada construction giant Ledcor Group.

    Born 75 years ago in Leduc, Alta, Ledcor is now an international company based at headquarters in Vancouver and San Diego.

    It has 10,000 employees working out of 20 office locations serving the civil and infrastructure, oil and gas, pipeline, building, mining, power, and telecommunications sectors. 

    In recent years, the company has been winning awards for its work in mitigating the risk of salt from its highway maintenance operations contaminating vegetation and ground water

    This year Ledcor won a contract with Ontario's transportation ministry to maintain highways in the Sault Ste. Marie area.

    Last Monday, city councillors directed that Ledcor be approached to explore the possibility of a pilot project using the company's technology for pre-wetting road salt and sand just before those materials are applied to a road surface.

    Pre-wetting has been used in road maintenance since the 1960s.

    The idea is to spray rock salt or sand with a liquid de-icing agent (usually salt brine).

    Once wet, salt becomes stickier, less likely to bounce off the road or be knocked off by passing traffic.

    This allows up to 30 per cent less salt to be used, lowering material cost and reducing environmental impact.

    Pre-wetting salt allows ice melting to start earlier, breaking the ice-road bond.

    There's also better salt penetration into the ice and snow pack.

    Ledcor has recently been upgrading its highway maintenance yards to prevent salt from contaminating sensitive areas including ditches and groundwater.

    Mitigation measures have included:

    • altering traffic flow to isolate contaminated areas
    • changing salt loading and handling procedures
    • confining contaminated snow within storage tanks or containment ponds
    • paving areas at risk of contamination to make the ground impermeable to salt
    • grading the ground with an inward slope to keep contaminated water within the yard
    • capturing contaminated water with a catch basin and sump system with above-ground storage
    • recirculating contaminated water to reduce off-site disposal and produce salt brine in-house as opposed to buying it 

    If Sault Ste. Marie decides to adopt pre-wetting methods, it won't happen immediately.

    Among other things, the city must order new salt/sand trucks with pre-wetting capacity.

    Also at last week's city council meeting, Ward 4 Coun. Marchy Bruni pushed his fellow councillors to send city equipment onto the end of private driveways to clear the hard, heavy ice that city scrapers deposit there once or twice a year.

    Bruni didn't get his way.

    There might have been a time when doing that made sense, said Larry Girardi, the city's deputy chief administrative officer in charge of public works and engineering services.

    But not now.

    "Years back, people had a driveway," Girardi said.

    "It was a gravel driveway. They may have had asphalt in the driveway.

    "Now we have interlocking bricks. Now we have all these fancy different stamped concrete, and we're going in with heavy equipment and doing damage.

    "This is costing the city a lot of time and a lot of money. So when we have to go back, certainly the councillor will get the call.

    "We will end up back at the site and there'll be scrape marks from the metal bucket that was in the driveway. And then there's all those complaints for trying to fix that up and it goes on and on."

    Councillors rejected Bruni's suggestion, but voted to pursue pre-wetted, sticky salt.


  • 01 Dec 2023 10:11 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Changing winter weather in P.E.I. may lead to increases in road salt run-off (thespec.com)

    CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — Changing weather patterns may lead to increased run-off and road salt usage during the winter months.

    UPEI biomedical sciences and biology professor Michael Van den Heuvel told SaltWire on Nov. 16 that while there is some concern, there is little research being conducted into run-off of road salt.

    “Everything with regards to the impacts on P.E.I. is entirely hypothetical,” Van den Heuvel said.

    Van den Heuvel said he has yet to come across individuals measuring or studying road salt as an environmental issue in P.E.I. but has seen it done in other areas.

    “Nobody has said, ‘Look at all this bad stuff happening due to salt’ on P.E.I. because there’s nothing visually obvious,” Van Den Heuvel said.

    Szwarc stated that more than 4,500 kilometres of roadways are plowed during the winter across the province, with approximately 500 km serviced with salt, primarily busy and major roadways.

    A sand mixture including a small portion of salt is spread on the remaining 4,000 km of less busy roadways, intended to help with vehicle traction while not damaging the asphalt.

    “Salt is used for snow and ice control. For the main highways the goal is to get down to bare asphalt,” Szwarc said.

    Approximately 70 per cent of winter road clearing across the province is done by contractors, but those major highways cleared by highway maintenance are monitored and managed around the clock.

    “We may look after less, but there is just as much or more gear needed to deal with the weather conditions,” Szwarc said.

    The salt and sand used on the Island is transported here throughout the winter, continuously refilling silos across the province.

    The amount of salt and sand used in P.E.I. during the winter varies from year to year and is dependent on factors such as temperature fluctuations and the number of storms.

    The City of Charlottetown avoids unnecessarily salting of sidewalks and pathways during the winter months, only salting after a freezing rain event or during quick-cooling weather events when ice is most prevalent.

    "Using too much salt isn’t effective, you need to use the right amount of material,” Szwarc said.

    Salt used on roads is only effective for melting salt when temperatures are under -6 C, but within this temperature zone weather patterns are also subject to change.

    Did you know?

    The Charlottetown police recommend safe driving habits as P.E.I. prepares for winter driving:

    Have winter tires on your vehicle as well as a snow brush/scraper in your vehicle. Clear all windows, lights, mirrors and the top of your car from snow and/or frost before driving. Slow down and adjust driving for road conditions. Leave room between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you as stopping can take longer on ice/snow-covered roads. Pay attention while driving and make sure you are not distracted.

    During winter storms, road salt that does not dissolve can be pushed off the road by snowplows, washed away in the rain and otherwise disturbed.

    Van den Heuvel explained that while there has not been any visual evidence of the environmental impacts of road salt, the Island remains an ideal location for research on this subject.

    “The density of roads is higher than any other province in Canada, so if you're going to have salt effects we would certainly be somewhere where you might expect to see that,” Van den Heuvel said.

    More research is required to better understand the impact of salt and sand on the environment, weighing the environmental hazards of both materials while continuing to provide safety for motor vehicles.

  • 27 Nov 2023 6:47 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Reducing road salt use 'not something that can wait' as Ontario lakes see oxygen depletion, researcher says | CBC News

    The move to reduce the amount of road salt during the winter months can't wait because Ontario's groundwater and lakes are showing "very rapid salinization," researchers at the University of Waterloo say.

    "We actually use a lot of of salt, and salt is a very effective way to keep roads, sidewalks and parking lots free of ice, and that, of course, is important in terms of ensuring the safety of road users and pedestrians," said Philippe Van Cappellen, a professor and researcher at the school, as well as the Canada Excellence Research Chair Laureate in Ecohydrology

    "But I think it's also very, very important to be aware that there's a downside to the use of salt," he added.

    He said previous research has shown groundwater and lakes in Ontario are becoming saltier.

    Most recently, Van Cappellen was part of a research group that looked specifically at Lake Wilcox in Richmond Hill. It examined the salinity — the amount of dissolved salt in a body of water — and how it has increased dramatically in the lake over the last nearly 30 years. 

    As part of the study, which was published this month in the journal Science of The Total Environment, the researchers looked at water chemistry, land use and climate data going back to 1996 along with recent testing of the water.

    As the amount of salt in the lake increased, Van Cappellen said, they also saw a depletion of oxygen.

    As salinity increases, so does the density of the water, and that makes it more difficult for the lake to "mix," he explained.

    "The mixing of the lake is what really takes the oxygen from the top of the lake — the part that's in contact with the atmosphere and gets its oxygen from — and to bring that oxygen down into the deeper parts of the lake," Van Cappellen said.

    People, animals and plants need oxygen to survive, and when oxygen is depleted, the only organisms that can survive are microorganisms, Van Cappellen said.

    "These microorganisms often produce noxious byproducts." He said that can create the rotten egg smell that is in the air when hydrogen sulfide is produced by certain bacteria in the absence of oxygen.

    "That also limits the amount of the lake that … is habitable for higher organisms such as fish," he said.

    "It's really something that's really affecting the water quality, it's really affecting the biodiversity of the lake."

    Van Cappellen said he wants local municipalities to talk about their road salt use, setting targets such as reducing its use by 25 per cent in the next five years.

    "It's not something that can wait for another 10 years or 20," he said. "I think it should be an ongoing process."

    'Right amount in the right area'

    Some municipalities have experimented with different ways of deicing roads, sidewalks and parking lots. They include Calgary and Winnipeg, which in the past have used a mixture that includes beet juice, and places in Wisconsin have experimented with cheese brine.

    David Pressey, the Region of Waterloo's manager of transportation operations, said the municipality has been aware of concerns about the use of road salt and has actively worked to decrease its use.

    "We have to ensure that the users of the road are able to get from home to the grocery store and back without incident. So that is our first and foremost concern. The environment is right there," he said.

    "We work with our environmental services team routinely to ensure that we are applying the right amount in the right area and ensuring that we are staying away from those sensitive areas."

    The region will lay down a brine solution when it learns a storm is coming, helping reduce the amount of rock salt spread during plowing.

    "Ten years ago, and even 15, 20 years ago, maybe the environment wasn't first and foremost, maybe the products used were different than today," he said. 

    "We're continually looking and researching for enhanced materials to use that are more effective and more environmentally friendly."

  • 24 Nov 2023 1:36 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Salts used on roads and sidewalks in the winter affecting fresh water sources: U of G prof | CityNews Kitchener

    With winter on the way this weekend, a professor from the University of Guelph is warning of the dangers of over salting.

    Dr. Ryan Prosser, a professor in ecotoxicology at the school of environmental sciences, said the water flowing from roads and sidewalks are making lakes, rivers and streams more salty. This is due to the water not being as diluted and affecting wildlife that has evolved and live in fresh water sources, such as fresh water mussels.

    One of the big drivers of using more salt is due to the rising population of cities like Kitchener and Waterloo.

    “I am concerned about the impact that it is going to have on our fresh water ecosystems,” said Prosser. “It’s going to become harder with more people and greater road density and more road salt.”

    The goal would be to use less salt, said Prosser. But this can come with its own risks due to liability for not salting driveways and roads.

    “Ideally, we would want to see individuals or commercial properties to use salt sparingly. But on their side, they’re concerned about the liability aspect,” said Prosser. It’s still trying to find a happy medium between the two.”

    Some alternatives have been suggested, such as a beet juice-based brine. However, Prosser said this is still toxic to ecosystems because of the higher levels of potassium.


  • 10 Nov 2023 1:21 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Road salt—a scientific, environmental, and labour issue with a legislative solution - The Queen's Journal (queensjournal.ca)

    Dropping temperatures mean students across Kingston are waking up to ice-covered sidewalks as a welcome to Canada’s natural slip ’n slide.

    Along with the ice comes one white substance we can’t get enough of: road salt. Unfortunately, the use of salt not only impacts the environment, but those whose job it is to spread it.

    “The salt issue is multifaceted. It’s people’s behavior and expectations. It’s how we’re dealing with liability and litigation. And then the ecology and toxicology part,” said Shelley Arnott, Queen’s biology professor, in an interview with The Journal.

    Canada uses five million tons of road salt every year in an effort to save lives and avoid injuries caused by hazardous winter conditions. At Queen’s, road salt is often spread over stairs, walkways, and parking lots, keeping people from slipping while damaging the aquatic ecosystem closest to us, Lake Ontario.

    Arnott remembers when people used to say, “the solution to pollution is dilution.” The idea was that society didn’t need a solution to road salt pollution, because it would wash into large water ways, diluted and safe. As a long-time researcher of the impact of salt on aquatic ecosystems, Arnott can confirm this isn’t the case.

    “It was just mounting evidence that sodium chloride, or road salt, was way more toxic than we thought,” Arnott said.

    Researchers like Arnott use chloride, an ion formed when salts are dissolved in water, to measure the salt concentrations in lakes near urban areas.  When Arnott began her research, she focused on its impact on smaller organisms, such as Daphnia—water fleas that feast on algae and are an integral part of lake ecosystems.

    “We were seeing effects, reduced reproduction and increased mortality, at concentrations as low as five to 40 milligrams of chloride per litre,” Arnott said. “That was pretty shocking because our water quality guidelines suggest that 120 milligrams of chloride per litre should be protecting most aquatic species.”

    Daphnia are highly sensitive to chloride, making them an important indicator of salt concentration in lakes. As Daphnia die, the algae they feed on will bloom and fish can perish without water fleas as a food source.

    Though Lake Ontario is one of the largest bodies of water in North America, Queen’s and Kingston’s  habitual use of road salt will still have an impact, especially on organisms that live near the shore, according to Arnott.

    As a long-time member of the Queen’s community, Arnott is disheartened when road salt is overused around campus. Limiting the use of salt is one way to reduce its environmental impact.

    Unfortunately, oversalting isn’t a one-dimensional issue. 

    Snow and ice management contractors are pressured to oversalt roads, sidewalks, and parking lots so the businesses and municipalities they work for won’t be sued.

    Landscape Ontario, a horticultural trades association, has been calling for the legal protection of contractors who spread road salt within communities. The association’s Snow and Ice Management Sector group is working to reduce salt’s environmental impact.  

    Aside from the environmental threat, the current legal landscape puts snow and ice contractors at a disadvantage.

    The high risk of slip and fall claims increases insurance costs related to ice management. As a result, contractors are slowly abandoning businesses, according to Landscape Ontario. This is leaving municipalities without people willing to spread salt. 

    “Snow and ice management contractors are essential, frontline workers. Without them, it’s impossible for Ontarians to get to work and school—and even more critically, they allow emergency services teams to reach people in need,” said Joe Salemi, executive director of Landscape Ontario, in a statement to The Journal.

    As changing weather patterns cause unpredictable freeze and thaw cycles, Landscape Ontario says oversalting is becoming more common. 

    “If the workers feel like they could get sued, then they’re going to put as much as they can to ensure they don’t,” Arnott said. 

    A lobby day at Queen’s Park on Oct. 24 brought together ice management contractors and MPPs, as well as Doug Ford, to discuss the environmental and labor issues of road salt use in Ontario. 

    Landscape Ontario hopes the provincial government will reform the liability surrounding slip and fall claims, and establish a regulatory framework for ice management to help prevent oversalting.

    “We were introduced in the House by MPP Parm Gill, minister of red tape reduction, and Andrea Khanjin, minister of the environment, conservation, and parks, [who are] committed to championing the cause in [provincial legislature],” Salemi said.

    Though it may be a long way from legal changes of contractor liability, there are some easier solutions.

    Instead of salting the roads, some municipalities in Canada such as Kingston are using brine—a mixture of salt and water that uses less salt.

    Road salt only works when there’s a little bit of liquid water on the ground already—without water, the salt has no effect. The salt ions dissociate in surface water, lowering its freezing temperature and preventing the lattice structure of ice from forming on pavement. Using brine guarantees there’s water available for the salt to dissociate, ensuring ice doesn’t form.

    “It’s not taking away the toxicity it’s just reducing how much you’re using,” Arnott said.

    Though there are many eco-alternatives available, Arnott cautions against believing everything on a label. 

    “I can’t use salt when I know how damaging it is. So, I get out and shovel,” Arnott said.

  • 08 Nov 2023 3:19 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Why Kelowna doesn’t use beet brine on winter roads - Kelowna News - Castanet.net

    year ago this week, Kelowna drivers were slipping and sliding through an early snowfall.

    So far, the forecast indicates only rain this week for the city, although Big White got a large dump of 15 centimetres Monday night and into Tuesday morning. As winter looms, the City of Kelowna is gearing up for winter road maintenance.

    The city’s 2023 Snow and Ice budget is $2.475 million. Year-to-date, $1.46 million has been spent, between January and March. That leaves approximately $1 million in the kitty to plow, sand and de-ice roads from now until the end of December.

    One thing you won’t see on the roads of Kelowna is beet brine. The naturally-sourced de-icing material has been used in a number of locations in recent years, most notably, in Calgary. It was also tried in a pilot project on the Coquihalla Highway starting in 2016/17.

    “The biggest drawback to using beet juice is the same reason as to why disposal units in the sink, garburators, have been banned. Because we’re basically putting food out on the road,” explains City of Kelowna Infrastructure Operations department manager Geert Bos.

    He says that raises environmental concerns because, as a food product, it will place a biological oxygen demand on waterways it runs into, making it more difficult for fish and other aquatic species to breathe.

    “Even though it sounds counter-productive, that it’s environmentally friendly because it’s a waste food product, it’s actually quite damaging to the environment if it makes it into the open waterways.”

    He says another drawback of beet juice is that it’s like molasses. It becomes tacky and can be dragged into homes and businesses, creating a sticky mess.

    Instead, the city uses liquid calcium chloride, typically as a defense strategy before hard freeze or snow events. “It’s basically a calcium-based salt that is diluted. It’s a liquid that we disperse over the roads,” adds Bos, who notes it is essentially a chemical compound.

    The city also applies road salt and sand to help drivers get traction and to melt compact snow down to “bare” pavement.

    Last winter’s early snowfall, which came mostly in November and December, pushed Kelowna’s 2022 snow removal costs $1.17 million above the $2.2 million budget.

  • 07 Nov 2023 1:35 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Road Salt Type Crucial for Winter Plant Health | Mirage News

    Increased salinity in soils is a global problem caused for example by ions leaching into soils from ice-melting salts used on roads in winter or from seawater seepage in coastal areas. Salinisation of farmland affects more than one and a half billion people worldwide. Researchers at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) investigated how high salt concentrations affect the development of wheat seedlings, which germinate deep in the soil, and what can be done to reduce the damage caused by salinisation.

    Increased salinity in soils, i.e., salinisation, is a global problem in agriculture, but also affects local crop production in gardens and in farmlands close to roads where large amounts of salts are used in winter as ice-melting agents, and in coastal areas where seawater seepage may occur. In nature, the leaves of seedlings growing in the dark deep in saline soils can be directly exposed to different ions in the soil, which can cause plant stress and ultimately plant death.

    Researchers from Eötvös Loránd University have shown that greening, that is, the biosynthesis of the green pigment, chlorophyll, and the development of photosynthetically active plastids, called chloroplasts, are inhibited in wheat leaves grown in the dark and then directly exposed to high salt concentrations. This can eventually lead to the death of the seedlings.

    Katalin Solymosi and her research group have used a very simple and reproducible method to easily identify which salts and in what concentrations have the most harmful effects on the greening of plants germinating in soil. Sodium (Na+) was found to have the most negative effect, while potassium (K+) salts (e.g., in the form of wood ash, traditionally often used for such purposes) and calcium chloride (CaCl2) can be considered as more environmentally friendly ice-melting compounds.

    A GLOBAL PROBLEM

    Increased soil salinity affects an estimated 833 million hectares of land worldwide. Unfortunately, due to inappropriate agricultural practices, this area is constantly increasing. The concentration of salts and the available water is constantly changing in the soil depending on several factors, including the quality and quantity of rainfall, external temperature, and evaporation.

    "Many researchers have been investigating for a long time how high soil salinity inhibits the germination of most economically important crops and reduces their yields. However,

    no studies are available about how saline soils affect the leaves of plant seedling developing from seeds sown deep into the soil according to agricultural planting protocols of many crops.

    This is even more surprising as salinisation of croplands affects about one and a half billion people worldwide," explains Katalin Solymosi, assistant professor at Eötvös Loránd University and lead researcher of the study.

    THE INVISIBLE DEATH OF WHEAT

    Depending on the soil type and the used wheat cultivar, wheat is usually sown 5-10 cm deep into the soil. Thus, the germinating wheat seedlings first develop in the soil in complete darkness. Due to the lack of sunlight, they do not produce the green pigment chlorophyll, which is characteristic of plants, and are therefore yellowish in colour. Without chlorophyll, the photosynthetic apparatus cannot develop, and a specific plastid type, the so-called etioplast develops in the leaves of these seedlings. When the leaves of developing plants reach the soil surface and are gradually exposed to light, chlorophyll is synthesized in them, the plants turn green and the etioplasts in them are transformed into green plastids, called chloroplasts. Chloroplasts are photosynthetically active and help the plant to produce sugars and thus energy for survival.

    Without the switch to self-sustaining photosynthesis, seedlings will eventually use up the nutrients stored in their seeds and die.

    "In this context, it is particularly surprising that no study has so far investigated in detail how high salt concentrations affect the greening of wheat seedlings, even though it is obvious that the leaves of plants germinating in soil are directly exposed to soil salinity" - says Adél Sóti, PhD student at Eötvös Loránd University, first author of the study published in the journal Planta. - "We found a simple method to investigate how salt affects the greening of plants. After 11 days of germination in complete darkness, for example in a closed box, leaf pieces of seedlings were first exposed to different concentrations of salt for 1.5 hours as a pretreatment and then illuminated in relatively low light to green them. Greening, that is the appearance or absence of green colour after 16 hours of illumination, is readily visible to the eye and indicates the extent to which the saline solution was detrimental to the process."

    SALT STRESS AND WATER SHORTAGE

    In fact, it is surprising that even half the salt concentration of seawater (i.e., about 300 mM NaCl) does not completely inhibit wheat greening but slows down the transformation of etioplasts into chloroplasts. However, at relatively high salt concentrations (e.g., 600 mM NaCl), equal to the salinity of seawater, greening is completely inhibited and specific structural changes, such as the swelling of the inner membranes of the etioplasts, are observed.

    High concentrations of saline solutions have negative effects on plants through at least two main mechanisms:

    because they are rich in dissolved ions, they can hinder water uptake and thus cause so-called osmotic stress, and the various salt ions can have a direct toxic effect on cells after uptake and thus interference with their metabolism.

    Within the framework of the ERASMUS+ staff mobility programme, Hungarian researchers, in collaboration with Beata Mysliwa-Kurdziel from the Jagellonian University in Krakow, conducted systematic studies to test whether the osmotic stress caused by the applied saline solutions significantly contributed to the observed inhibition of greening. For these studies, a non-ionic compound, polyethylene glycol, was used at the same osmolarity as the saline solutions to mimic the osmotic stress caused by the different saline solutions.

    LESS SODIUM, HIGHER YIELD

    "With electron microscopic investigations we showed that the large and abnormal swelling of the water-containing inner space (called lumen) of the etioplast inner membranes did not occur during the application of only osmotic stress and was only observed in samples treated with high Na+ concentrations. Our comparative analyses showed that high concentrations (600 mM) of KCl, KNO3 or 300 mM CaCl2 also slowed down the greening, but did not induce such marked ultrastructural changes" – summarized Katalin Solymosi the main conclusions of the study.

    These results may reinforce the collective wisdom of people to use, for example,

    wood ash enriched in potassium salts (K+) instead of sodium salts for de-icing snowy roads in winter.

    Similarly, CaCl2 is considered a more environment friendly ice-melting and anti-skid agent. At high concentrations, however, neither salts have a positive effect on the greening of seedlings, which is something to bear in mind during winter snowfalls if you want to have a beautiful garden with lots of green plants next spring.

    /Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) might be of the point-in-time nature, and edited for clarity, style and length. Mirage.News does not take institutional positions or sides, and all views, positions, and conclusions expressed herein are solely those of the author(s).View in full here.
  • 01 Nov 2023 6:02 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    West Berkshire winter road gritting service officially begins - BBC News

    A council has officially begun winter gritting on its roads, with thousands of tonnes of salt ready for use.

    West Berkshire Council is responsible for protecting 529km (328.7 miles) of main roads and 259km (161 miles) of minor roads from ice and snow.

    It has 2,200 tonnes of salt available, 1,200 tonnes of which is kept at Chieveley Depot.

    During last year's winter period, between October and March, 441 roads were gritted in West Berkshire.

    ADVERTISEMENT

    The council has a statutory duty to ensure safe passage along roads in its district.

    It uses information from roadside sensors and detailed site-specific forecasts issued by forecaster providers when deciding whether to send gritters out.

    It also salts specified sections of the footway network during prolonged hazardous conditions and when snow is forecast, though remote cycle paths are not treated.

    A winter services duty officer is available 24 hours a day.

    There are 30 available salt bins owned and maintained by the council, with 446 others owned and maintained by the parish and town councils.

    The treatment of the M4 motorway and the A34 trunk road is the responsibility of National Highways.

  • 30 Oct 2023 5:39 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Winter is coming; so is salt. It’s time to develop new weapons in the war against icy roads | Opinion | chroniclejournal.com

    HERE IT COMES. Another Northern Ontario winter nears, and with it the perils of driving on ice and snow along with the remedy, namely road salt and all the damage that it brings. After all this time, why hasn’t Canada — presumably a winter expert — figured out an alternative to the road salt products that ruin our vehicles and harm much of our environment?

    It turns out that some jurisdictions have done just that with impressive results. First, though, some history.

    Road salt initially appeared in the United States when New Hampshire began to experiment with granular sodium chloride in 1938. By the winter of 1941-42, the state began using salt on local roads and highways. Eventually, other states caught on and began using salt to treat their roads, as did Canada.

    Water freezes to form ice at zero degrees. Road salt lowers the freezing temperature of the water and stops the formation of ice, but the colder it gets, the higher the concentration of salt that is needed.

    Reduced winter highway maintenance in Northern Ontario by private contractors, in part acting on less stringent provincial standards and with fewer resources, has led regional municipal associations to demand more attention sooner after snowfalls as accident rates grow and highways are closed in storms. And so, they poured on more salt.

    Today, the United States uses between 10 and 20 million tons of road salt each winter. Canada, with one-tenth the population but just a quarter of the kilometres of roads, uses roughly five million tons of salt products annually.

    Writing in the Smithsonian Magazine, Joshua Rapp Learn noted an increasing amount of research showing that road salt gets absorbed into roadside plants, licked up by wildlife or accumulates in aquatic ecosystems — sometimes with devastating consequences. “All that saltiness can help invasive or even toxic species spread, not to mention (ironically) increase traffic danger due to deer and moose drawn to salt-covered roads.”

    Among the effects on wildlife, salt runoff into waterways can reduce the size of rainbow trout hatchlings, kill off zooplankton — the minute, abundant organisms that form the baseline resource for entire ecosystems, and even affect gender ratios of frog populations.

    Milkweed tends to absorb high concentrations of roadside salt runoff, altering the development of monarch butterflies that feed on it and killing those exposed to the highest levels even as efforts are underway to try and reverse their decline.

    Emilie Snell-Rood, an associate professor in ecology, evolution and behaviour at the University of Minnesota, says that since salt is often limited in the natural world for creatures, it can act as a super stimulus when they do encounter it.

    “Road salt is kind of like potato chips for animals,” she says. By attracting some species to roadsides, salt can put animals in danger from getting hit from passing cars. Canadians are well acquainted with this phenomenon, some violently so, as moose and deer amble onto highways to lick up salt. Across North America, researchers say there are approximately 45,000 reports of wildlife-vehicle collisions each year.

    Salt of course moves from roadside ditches to creeks and rivers and into water tables and lakes, sources of drinking water. High levels of chloride can produce health issues with people on low-sodium diets due to diabetes or other illnesses. The increase in cyanobacteria — also called blue-green algae, which have been growing in number in Thunder Bay district — can also put toxins into lakes people and dogs swim in.

    ROAD SALTING has changed over the last 10 years from using rock salt to a heavy wetting agent, or brine that is designed to stick to the road, but conversely also sticks to your vehicle. This new agent “is heavily laden with magnesium chloride which is tremendously caustic to any type of metal,” says Pierre Leger, president of Krown Rust Control. So it’s more important than ever to wash your vehicle after every storm where salt brine is applied to roads.

    Even with that, and annual rustproofing, brine will eventually creep into auto body nooks and crannies and begin to rust metal from the inside out. It’s inevitable, but there are ways being found to prevent it.

    There are enough harmful effects, including early deterioration of concrete bridges and parking structures and their steel innards, to have prompted some jurisdictions to look at alternatives to road salt.

    The Minnesota Department of Transportation has been experimenting with potassium acetate on some of the most heavily used bridges, tunnels and traffic routes near downtown Duluth.

    Chris Cheney, maintenance operations superintendent for the department’s Duluth district, said the chemical has shown some promise. It’s better at melting ice in cold temperatures, he said.

    Potassium acetate is a liquid solution and costs about three times as much as road salt, Cheney said. But crews are using much less of it than they do road salt, so the cost ends up being about the same. Unlike chloride, the chemical eventually breaks down in the environment.

    Following Calgary’s lead, the City of Winnipeg has used beet juice to help lower the amount of salt used on its roadways since 2020, and according to a city spokesperson, it can improve the “adhesion of the sand and salt to the roadway surface at colder temperatures.”

    “Beet juice can make up to 60 per cent of the solution we are applying to the roads and is combined with a traditional sodium chloride-based brine. This lessens our chloride loading on infrastructure and the environment while producing a good quality melting solution effective to temperatures below -30 C,” a spokesperson told CTV News.

    Yes, the beet juice solution — a waste byproduct of beet sugar refining — does leave the roads stained with red and brown, which can be unappealing. That being said, Laval, one of the earlier adopters of this solution, has started to use the juice from white beets to avoid the mess.

    Williams Lake, B.C., began to experiment with Beet 55, a slightly sticky mix of sugar-beet juice and saline. It’s brown and doesn’t stain.

    SO WHILE SALT is the cheapest method of winter ice and snow control, it’s also the most damaging. Those withered conifers you see beside highways are brown for a reason.

    “We’ve been dramatically increasing the amount of salt per mile since the 1970s, even in places where we don’t have any substantial increases in the amount of road miles,” says Rick Relyea, a professor of biological sciences at New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “The answer isn’t really in alternative salts but in less salt.”

    Hilary Dugan, a freshwaters scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, agrees that using less salt is the answer in many cases, and that educating people about the amount they use on their driveways and sidewalks could help. “You can maintain safety by using a lot less road salt,” she says.

    Charlottetown uses common-sense ideas to reduce its use of road salt. Sidewalks will not be salted when snow can be scraped to reveal mostly bare sidewalks, when sunny weather conditions and rising temperatures are forecast for after the snow has been plowed, another weather event is expected in the next 24-36 hours, or temperatures are too low for salt to be effective.

    The “Superior-By-Nature” City of Thunder Bay, other regional municipalities and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation need to start doing winter differently. Consider the deleterious effects of road salt. Follow the lead of others. Settle on alternatives to protect life. It works.

  • 26 Oct 2023 7:17 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Salt sensibly this winter - Farm and Dairy

    Shorter days, cloudy skies, colorful leaves and frosty nights are telltale signs that autumn is actually and finally here… for now, that is.  Despite the fluctuating temperatures and wacky weather patterns, our region’s beloved (though often cursed!) change of seasons is something that we can always count on. It won’t be long until these falling leaves become falling snowflakes, and we’ll be hanging up the rakes and reaching for the shovels.

    No matter the season, what we do on the land affects the quality of our water and no exceptions are made for old man winter. Because the ground is often frozen during this time it acts as an impervious surface, preventing snowmelt and runoff from naturally soaking into the ground and being filtered. In addition, our region’s notorious snowfalls tend to bring with them a heavy dose of salt.

    Sodium chloride (NaCl) in the form of crushed rock salt, that is. Since the 1940’s, this road salt has become the most effective and affordable way of keeping our roads clear of snow and ice. Nationwide every winter an average of 20 million tons of road salt are applied to our miles and miles of roads, parking lots, sidewalks and driveways. While usage fluctuates with the severity of the winter, the amount of impervious pavement due to urbanization continues to increase. Though critical to our safety, the cumulative effect of salting roads to keep our society moving has large environmental and economic costs.

    Application matters

    Throughout 2023, the Geauga Soil and Water Conservation District and other northeast Ohio districts and agencies have been promoting ways to reduce the amount of salt applied through sensible salting strategies. Just like too much salt in your diet can be bad for your health, too much salt on our roads is harmful to our water and soil.

    After application, road salt is carried by melting snow and rain into local lakes, streams and groundwater. According to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, there is a trend of increasing chloride concentrations in our rivers and lakes across the northern tier of the U.S. and Canada and the long-term environmental impacts of salting our roads is greatly contributing to the alarming salinization of our freshwater.

    Salt impacts

    Ohio, in fact, now ranks third nationwide for tons of salt applied. Studies confirm that this increased concentration of chloride disrupts freshwater food webs and ecosystems by decreasing zooplankton populations, increasing algae concentrations and negatively impacting fish and insect size and reproduction rates. High concentrations of sodium are fatally toxic to aquatic critters, destroy soil stability, decrease soil’s ability to filter water and increase soil erosion.

    When winter precipitation comes to town, roadway snow and ice removal for public safety will always be our first and foremost priority.  After sifting through the many deicing methods and materials, we see that road salt remains king: rock solid for its affordability, abundance and ease of mining, storing, distributing and spreading.

    As watershed residents, we know that our daily habits and backyard behaviors inadvertently yet collectively contribute to stormwater pollution. Though we may not be able to control how much salt is put on the roads, we can control our own salting behaviors on our driveways and sidewalks. Simple changes to the amount and ways that we salt can greatly improve the health of our watershed without jeopardizing our safety. The following savvy and sensible salting tips are easy to remember and will help save your money and time.

    This winter remember to use the right S.A.L.T.

    STUFF — Salt (sodium chloride) only works above 15 degrees F.  For colder temperatures use a small amount of sand for added traction, or switch to an ice-melting product designed to work at colder temperatures. Products containing calcium chloride can melt ice in temperatures as low as -25 degrees F. Remember that chloride in deicers is what burns your pets’ paws and deteriorates concrete.

    AMOUNT — Use a gentle hand and spread only enough salt to do the job. One 12-ounce coffee mug full of salt is enough to effectively deice 250 square feet, which is equivalent to about 10 sidewalk squares. Remember that more salt does not mean more melting. Just like fertilizer on your lawn, too much only damages soil and pollutes water. It only takes one teaspoon of road salt to permanently pollute five gallons of water. Also, be sure to sweep up extra salt and sand once the ice melts to ensure it doesn’t wash into a ditch, storm drain, or nearby stream. If it is visible on dry pavement, its job is done.

    LOCATION — Spread salt only on the surfaces of your driveway and sidewalk that need to be deiced and never on the lawn, at the base of trees, or near a stream or storm drain. Consider locations where paths through the snow can be created rather than removing all of the snow.

    TIME — Salt works best when it is applied right before the snow falls or right after snow is removed from your driveway or sidewalk, and never when rain is in the forecast. Also shoveling and removing snow and ice during a snowstorm reduces the amount of salt required for deicing and increases the efficiency of your efforts.

    The old adage says “It takes a village” and when it comes to salting our neighborhoods, we can significantly reduce the negative impacts of sodium chloride within our village with increased awareness and proper application. Armed with knowledge and shovels, it’s time we get smart about salt to secure the necessary safety of both our roadways and waterways.

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