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Report warned road salt more environmentally harmful than fracking

17 Jul 2023 6:22 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

Report warned road salt more environmentally harmful than fracking | News |

The Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault’s department said they do not know how much harm road salt, a contaminant used in Canada, has caused the environment. 

Even though it is considered a more significant threat to the environment than fracking, the exact extent of the damage caused by large amounts of road salt used yearly, especially in Ontario and Quebec, is still unknown.

“Salt application for de-icing purposes has been recognized as a major source of contamination,” said a department report. 

“There is still room for improvement.”

According to Blacklock’s Reporter, the department in 1995 placed road salt on a “priority substance list” but stopped short of listing it as toxic. Federal research in 2001 concluded salt posed a risk to “plants, animals, birds, fish and lake stream ecosystems and groundwater.”

“Canada is the largest consumer of salt in the world mainly due to the demand for road salt for de-icing roads in winter conditions,” said the new report Review of Progress: Code of Practice for the Environmental Management of Road Salts

“Approximately 90% to 95% of Canada’s salt consumption is for de-icing and chemical production.”

At least 4.9 million tonnes of road salt were dumped annually, almost all of it in Ontario. The department complained it was “difficult to evaluate the quantity” since Québec does not report figures. The last data from Québec in 2017 put usage in the province at 1.5 million tonnes a year.

According to the report, it is known that salt can harm lakes, rivers, and groundwater, but we are unsure of how widespread the contamination is.

“There are no comprehensive studies on chloride concentrations across Canada,” said Road Salts

“Many recent studies investigating long-term trends in chloride concentrations in certain North American freshwater ecosystems have shown increasing chloride concentrations.”

Researchers wrote that municipalities used too much road salt without considering public safety or harm to the environment.

“There is a societal expectation of bare pavement and sidewalks throughout winter,” said Road Salts

“Decisions around the application of salt, including how much to apply, are often driven by the perception of risk and liability and may lead to oversalting.”

A 2013 Access to Information report from the department of Natural Resources found that road salt, farm fertilizers, and other common chemicals pose a higher environmental risk than shale gas fracking.

“In Canada, surface activities have been identified as posing the largest risks to groundwater, for example municipal landfills, industrial waste disposal sites, leaking gasoline storage tanks, leaking septic tanks, accidental spills, runoff from road salt, fertilizer, pesticides, livestock wastes etcetera,” said the report.

“Hydraulic fracturing using the technologies employed in Canada and governed by Canadian regulatory requirements has not resulted in significant negative environmental impacts,” said the report Shale Gas Development in Canada: An NRCan Perspective.

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