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Gravenhurst Council Acknowledges The Dangers Of Road Salt To Lake Eco Systems

19 Jul 2023 2:42 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

Gravenhurst Council acknowledges the dangers of road salt to lake eco systems - The Bay 88.7FM #WeAreMuskoka (muskokaradio.com)

Gravenhurst Council approved the proposal to acknowledge the impact of road salt on lake eco systems, in the July 18, 2023, meeting.

Joanne Smith, representative of the Gull and Silver Lakes Associations, presented the proposal, in collaboration with the Muskoka Watershed Council (MWC), that Council, “pass a resolution acknowledging the impact of road salt on fresh water eco systems, direct staff to produce an annual report with the quantity of road salt used each winter, have a volunteer program for private road salt operators, and become an example of the issue.”

Smith indicated that road salt is an issue because it’s considered toxic according to the Environmental Protection Act due to the damage it causes the environment.

Dr. Norm Yan, member of the MWC, added that sodium chloride levels have increased in Lake Muskoka, according to reports by the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Natural Resources, and the District over the past 40 years. He said, “There’s 13,000 tons of road salt sitting in the lake.” He compared it to dump trucks backing up and filling it with salt.

Yan advised that the dangerous levels of salt in many of the lakes in Muskoka has a negative impact on the plants, animals, invertebrates, and fish. He indicated that the lakes with the highest salt levels are the ones near winter-maintained roads.

Mayor, Heidi Lorenz, advised that Council needs more time to consider the request further.

Councillor, Penny Varney, expressed shock about the salt levels going into the watershed. She suggested that Council pass the resolution in an effort to acknowledge the impact and to “commit the Town to reduce as much as possible.”

Councillor, Sandy Cairns, a volunteer with the watershed group and who takes water samples, said “it’s astonishing” regarding the salt levels, going into Gull Lake. She added, “The amount of salt coming from five outlets into Gull Lake is atrocious. I’m very concerned about Jevins Lake too.”

Cairns expressed the importance of road safety as a priority, however, emphasized the importance of either replacing or reducing the use of salt. “We have a lot to learn,” she said, suggesting that people are using too much salt on residences too, such as on driveways.

Smith advised that only a tablespoon of salt is needed per square meter, “the size of an umbrella,” and that only a cup is needed for 20 square meters.

Cairns added, “A lot of us think more is better and it’s not.” She referenced sidewalks, with “grains of salt every centimetre, and sliding on grains of salt is a hazard of itself.”

Lorenz requested that Council defer the proposal so that staff can review it and decide. She said, “The District is responsible for less than 10% in the community. I don’t want to make a declaration for something we can’t do… We’re not going to be spreading salt within a few months.”

Varney advised that the resolution “acknowledges the impact on the eco system is all they’re asking right now.” She added, “It’s just education.”

Cairns indicated that even the government acknowledges the toxicity of salt in the waters as “truth.”

Councillor, Peter Johnston, suggested they can still get information from staff, such as the quantity of salt being used. He said, “What we can do is being done,” and indicated the resolution “doesn’t ask for anything except commitment. One reason why we’re where we are today is because good-intended government delay things.”

Johnston added, “We’re in trouble. We’re making great progress… Passing the resolution just shows our commitment.” He suggested the importance of letting the public know they are listening.

Councillor, Randy Jorgensen, suggested that looking at the use of other options for the roads can also lead to lower costs. He added, “The plan is how to do better. We already are committed to doing it. So, there’s potential for a financial benefit.”

Lorenz advised, “If the proposal fails it can’t be brought back for 6 months.”

Smith said, “We’re just asking to reduce salt as mush as possible.”

Majority of Council members voted in favour of the proposal, acknowledging the toxic threats and environmental damage of salt and less use where feasible.

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