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  • 27 Jan 2023 7:10 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    To salt or not to salt? | Living Green |

    Ice-melting salt is useful in winter but can pollute soil and water

    The United States uses an estimated 20 million metric tons of salt on roads every year.

    In places like the Lake Champlain basin, the long, cold winters mean a lot of salt applied on our roads and sidewalks. But all of that salt can pollute our soils and waters and harm local ecosystems.

    “Road salt can make its way via streams to local lakes and ponds,” said Kris Stepenuck, associate director of the Lake Champlain Sea Grant, a program of UVM that produces scientific work to benefit the Lake Champlain basin. “Once there, it will only accumulate and can cause unsafe — or even toxic — conditions for fish and other aquatic life.”

    What can you do to protect local forests and waterways when using ice-melting salt? Follow these guidelines.

    Check to see if the conditions are right

    Salt depresses the freezing point of water, which makes it effective at reducing ice formation and accumulation on streets and sidewalks in the winter—down to a certain temperature. Sodium chloride, the most common type of road salt, is not effective when the pavement temperature is colder than around 16 degrees.

    So, be sure to check the temperature of the pavement with an infrared thermometer before you salt. If it’s too cold, opt for an alternative such as gravel, sand or even cat litter. These materials will provide extra traction to help prevent slipping while also absorbing more heat from sunlight, which helps melt the snow.

    If your driveway is gravel or dirt, applying salt is even more harmful for the environment and can cause dangerous conditions for driving. Instead, try salt alternatives like gravel, sand or cat litter to increase traction.

    Salt before the snow

    So, you’ve just checked the forecast to see if it’s the right temperature to apply salt and saw a big storm rolling in. What can you do? If you salt before the storm, it provides a buffer between your driveway and the snow, which makes shoveling easier and driving safer.

    Bonus points if you dissolve the salt in water first and spray the mixture on your driveway.

    “Using a 23 percent salt-water solution acts like butter in a frying pan,” Stepenuck said. “This reduces the ability of snow and ice to bond with the surface. Using a salt-water mixture can reduce total salt use and make it easier to plow or shovel after the storm. Plus, since any dry salt you spread must combine with water to minimize ice formation, the mixture can work its magic more quickly than if you spread dry salt.”

    Shovel, then salt

    If you apply salt to your driveway when it already has a layer of snow on it, the salt will need to seep through the layer of snow before it can start working, meaning you would need more salt to keep the driveway free from snow and ice. Instead, shovel first and apply the salt as close to the pavement as you can.

    Use the right amount

    Salt is often spread on driveways and sidewalks without much rhyme or reason, but the amount of salt you use matters. A good rule of thumb is to spread no more than a cup or a cup and a half of rock salt for every 10 sidewalk squares or every two parking spaces. There should be about 3 inches between each of the salt grains.

    Using more than that doesn’t make it more effective, it just allows more salt to runoff into the environment, to be tracked into the house or to damage doors, steps or other structures. And it wastes money.

    If you used too much salt and see it on your driveway or walkways after the snow is gone, sweep it up. You can save it and use it for the next storm. Otherwise, this excess salt will slowly infiltrate into the soil around it or run off your driveway, ultimately polluting a nearby waterway.

    Tell your neighbors

    The best way to increase your impact is to get other people on board. Share these tips with your friends and neighbors so that we can all have a safe and sustainable winter. Happy shoveling!

     For more information, email

  • 25 Jan 2023 7:10 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Settling in for winter: Road salt impacts groundwater year-round | Mirage News

    Research explains the impacts deicers have on groundwater resources

    January 25, 2023 – For many parts of the United States, winter weather can impact road conditions. To reduce hazardous conditions caused by snow and ice, many counties, municipalities, homeowners, and others use deicers. Salt is the most common option to treat roads.

    But how might road salt impact groundwater? Does it have impacts only in winter, or does it have lasting impacts year-round?

    These are key questions that Rachel McQuiggan, a researcher at the Delaware Geological Survey, and colleagues wanted to answer. In their research, they monitored stormwater and groundwater at an infiltration basin. An infiltration basin is a large, shallow roadside pool that allows stormwater to infiltrate into the groundwater.

    The research was published in the Journal of Environmental Quality, a publication of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America.

    “Most stormwater management practices are designed to protect surface waters,” says McQuiggan. “Infiltration basins, and even some types of green infrastructure, are designed with the idea that stormwater benefits from a natural ‘filtering’ of contaminants as it infiltrates through soil, and contaminants dilute as that recharge mixes with existing groundwater.”

    She adds that these are used to prevent contaminants like salt from being discharged straight into surface water. But in states like Delaware, groundwater contributes up to 80 percent of the water in rivers and streams. This means that salt will eventually reach rivers and streams, just on a longer timescale.

    The researchers monitored the infiltration basin from mid-May 2019 to mid-February 2022 to evaluate the impact road salt had on groundwater quality. One aspect of their findings showed that geological complexity, such as differences in subsurface soil properties, influenced how salty stormwater moved through groundwater.

    The researchers explained it is important to consider things like placement, depth, and frequency of monitoring groundwater to get the full picture.

    The team found that groundwater is impacted by road salt throughout the year, not just during winter. This is because the salt is retained in the soil in the infiltration basin. Salt is made of sodium and chlorine atoms, and chloride more easily moves in water. However, sodium more easily latches onto soil particles.

    During other parts of the year, stormwater that does not contain much salt enters the basin and flushes sodium from the soil into the water. The results of the study also suggest that a higher salt content can cause radium to enter the groundwater.

    “Climate can really impact the timing of how this all plays out,” McQuiggan explains. “For example, if it’s a particularly dry spring and summer, then the sodium can take longer to reach groundwater. And in Delaware, snowfall typically melts and runs off the roads within a few days of falling. In colder climates it can stay frozen for months.”

    While there are other deicers available, they are not all as effective as road salt and each has its own pros and cons. Sand is a popular option to increase traction and minimally affect groundwater but could require extra maintenance like street sweeping, says McQuiggan.

    “There are even carbohydrate deicers, like beet juice,” she says. “However, most alternatives are used in conjunction with salt or acetate because those are so effective and road safety is incredibly important. Each option has its pros and cons in terms of impact to the environment and cost.”

    Many cold areas depend on deicer to ensure the safety of drivers, bikers, and pedestrians. The researchers say their work provides direction on how to best monitor the impacts of deicer on groundwater so adjustments can be made if needed.

    “Groundwater supplies almost half of all drinking water worldwide,” says McQuiggan. “In central and southern Delaware, groundwater is the only source of potable drinking water. Hopefully the results of this project will encourage best management practices for deicer use to protect groundwater resources.”

    Funding for this research was provided by the Delaware Department of Transportation. The research team is affiliated with the Delaware Geological Survey and the University of Delaware’s Department of Earth Sciences.

    Journal of Environmental Quality publishes original research, reviews and analyses, and environmental issue articles that address anthropogenic impacts on water, soil, and the atmosphere and pertain to some aspect of environmental quality in natural and agricultural ecosystems.

    The American Society of Agronomy is an international scientific and professional society with its headquarters in Madison, WI. Our members are researchers and trained, certified professionals in the areas of growing our world’s food supply, while protecting our environment. We work at universities, government research facilities and private businesses across the United States and the world.

    /Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.

  • 23 Jan 2023 6:41 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Road salts wash into Mississippi River, damaging ecosystems and pipes (

    This winter has already brought significant snowfall to much of the U.S. Historically, more snow has meant more road salt. It’s an effective way to clear roads — but also brings cascading environmental impacts as it washes into rivers and streams. 

    But amid one powerful winter storm that walloped the Midwest in December, employees from the La Crosse County Facilities Department in Wisconsin did something a little different. 

    As usual, they clocked into work well before dawn to plow the county’s downtown parking lots. They were followed by facilities director Ryan Westphal, who walked each of the lots, checking for slick spots. Finding none, he didn’t lay any salt down on top. 

    That’s a major departure from how he would have handled the situation a few years ago – before their department made the decision to dramatically cut back on salt use to prevent it from flowing into waters like the nearby Mississippi River, which new data show has been growing saltier for decades.

    Under the previous protocol, in Westphal’s words, his crew would have “salted the crap” out of the lots after a snowfall like this, without giving deference to whether they actually needed it. Today, there’s a careful calculation after each time it snows to ensure they’re using just the right amount of salt. 

    Westphal acknowledged that the new way isn’t faster, nor is it easier. If a half-inch of snow falls today, for example, a handful of employees will take a few hours to plow the lots, versus the one employee who could have thrown salt down in an hour. 

    But he said the extra time is worth it. 

    “There’s pretty good evidence that if we continue to use salt at the rate we do now, it’s going to be detrimental to the rivers and lakes eventually,” Westphal said. “We need to do something about it now.” 

    The use of road salt during winter is nothing new for people across the Midwest, particularly in its upper stretches where the presence of snow and ice can linger from December into April. But there’s growing awareness of the harm it can cause to freshwater resources – wreaking havoc on aquatic life, disrupting ecosystems, making its way into groundwater and corroding pipes. 

    New data reveal that levels of chloride – one of the elements that make up salt – have increased by more than a third since the late 1980s across the entire Upper Mississippi River basin, which extends from the river’s headwaters in Minnesota to southern Illinois. Reported increases are even higher at monitoring sites in Wisconsin and Minnesota. And the problem is magnified in smaller rivers and streams that can’t flush the same volume as the Mississippi. 

    There are other reasons for increased chloride in water, like salt from water softeners and the use of potassium chloride fertilizer, but road salt is typically a dominant source in colder states. 

    It’s leading people like Westphal – as well as those in state and federal environmental agencies – to realize a change is needed. 

    The river is getting saltier 

    Unlike other pollutants, chloride doesn’t break down in water over time. In other words, once it’s in, there’s no getting it out. Just a teaspoon of salt can pollute five gallons of water forever. 

    So the increase in chloride in the river isn’t from a recent overabundance of road salt being laid down in the winter months. It has built up over decades. And because it doesn’t break down, it’s all headed down into the Gulf of Mexico. 

    In a forthcoming report on water quality in the upper river, the Upper Mississippi River Basin Association (UMRBA) found that chloride had increased at least 35% across the basin between 1989 and 2018. All 14 sites on the river where chloride was measured, plus one on the Illinois River, which feeds to the Mississippi, showed increases in the pollutant during that time period, according to UMRBA data. 

    At a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources monitoring site in Lynxville, about an hour south of La Crosse, chloride levels in the river had increased by more than 60% since the 1980s, according to a 2021 study from two Mississippi River water quality specialists with the DNR. 

    And chloride levels in the portion of the river that runs through the Twin Cities metro area increased 81% between 1985 and 2014, according to a 2016 report from the nonprofit group Friends of the Mississippi River. 

    Chloride levels are rising at all 43 DNR river monitoring sites across Wisconsin.

    “It really shows that we’re not on a sustainable path,” said Shawn Giblin, who coauthored the 2021 DNR study. “You can’t keep having 1 to 4% annual increases. You’re eventually going to get to chronic toxicity levels.” 

    The concept of freshwater becoming saltier, known as freshwater salinization syndrome, isn’t unique to the upper Midwest. In November, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said its scientists have been studying the issue because of “dramatic” salt concentration increases in freshwater around the country and globally. 

    Both the EPA and state environmental agencies set limits for when chloride becomes toxic to aquatic life. In Wisconsin, for example, 395 milligrams per liter of chloride in a water body for days at a time is considered chronically impaired, while 757 milligrams per liter, which is instantly toxic to fish, is considered acutely impaired. 

    Though the Mississippi River is under the limit, many smaller tributaries are not. In Minnesota, 50 lakes and streams are considered impaired by chloride, and another 75 have chloride levels near the standard, according to the state’s pollution control agency. In Wisconsin, 51 rivers and one lake are chronically impaired by chloride, DNR data show – most in the southeast part of the state. 

    Ecosystems hurt by high chloride

    High chloride levels can have far-reaching destructive impacts on ecosystems. 

    Salt increases the electric current in a body of water and makes the overall environment less habitable, said Lauren Salvato, who coordinates the water quality program for the Upper Mississippi River Basin Association. By adding more and more to the water, the ecosystem starts acting more like an estuary, an area where a freshwater river or stream meets the ocean.

    Toxic amounts of chloride can kill freshwater aquatic plants and animals. That includes zooplankton, microscopic animals that feed on algae. Die-offs can then lead to harmful algal blooms, which have their own adverse effects

    Chloride can also make its way into groundwater, the source of  drinking water for about two-thirds of Wisconsinites and about three-fourths of Minnesotans. Salt’s other component – sodium – can alter the taste of water and could pose health risks for people who are on low-salt diets. 

    Finally, elevated chloride levels can also pose an infrastructure problem, corroding lead and copper drinking water lines and leading to contamination.

    Searching for solutions

    Many municipalities are already experimenting with ways to fix the problem. Brining, where salt is mixed with water before being applied to roads, resulted in a 23% reduction in salt use on average on Wisconsin highways, a 2022 study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found. Some places even use beet juice to help the solution work at a lower temperature, since standard road salt is much less effective at temperatures lower than 15 degrees. 

    That can be combined with other techniques, like pre-wetting salt so it doesn’t bounce off roads and using underbody plows, which can remove hard-packed snow better than plows with a front blade. 

    In Minnesota, the state pollution control agency leads a Smart Salting training program to help road salt applicators better understand how too much salt can affect the environment. The training aims to help applicators identify the best balance between ensuring safe traveling conditions and protecting the environment. 

    To date, about 5,300 people are currently certified under the program, said Brooke Asleson, the state’s chloride reduction program coordinator. 

    The idea emerged in 2005, sparked by concern about Shingle Creek, which joins the Mississippi River in Minneapolis and was the first water body in the state to be designated as chloride-impaired about a decade prior. 

    Two years ago, the state made it a requirement for any entity that receives a municipal stormwater permit to get trained on proper salt use and the importance of protecting water quality. Enrollment in the Smart Salting training has significantly increased since then, Asleson said. 

    Some participants simply weren’t aware that they could be using less salt, she said. After implementing techniques from the training, many are able to cut their salt use in half. 

    One other change that could make a difference: protecting people from slip-and-fall lawsuits as long as they follow proper salting guidelines. 

    “Ultimately, the fear (from applicators) is if they don’t put enough road salt down, someone’s going to slip and sue them,” said UMRBA’s Salvato. 

    New Hampshire legislators passed a law in 2013 that gave partial immunity from lawsuits to snow-removal companies that participated in a voluntary training program for applying road salt. Similar bills have been floated in Minnesota – where it’s been proposed but not yet passed – and Wisconsin, where one is currently being drafted.  

    Communicating why it matters

    Advocates for reducing road salt say public awareness is critical. 

    The general public is “mostly unaware” of trends in chloride contamination and the harmful effect it can have on the environment, according to a chloride resolution UMRBA adopted in February 2022. The resolution aims to facilitate upper basin states working together to reduce chloride in the river. 

    The EPA has also convened a group of cold-weather states to help them share information about easing the impacts of winter road maintenance on the environment. 

    “It is a big lift to tackle this chloride issue,” Asleson said. “The more collaboration we can do as states to share information and knowledge with each other, the better off all of us will be at protecting our environment.” 

    For Westphal, in La Crosse County, it wasn’t hard to convince his staff to get on board with being more mindful of their salt use because many of them share his appreciation for the Mississippi River and nearby lakes. His passion for the issue comes from a longtime friendship with Giblin, the Wisconsin DNR water quality specialist. 

    But this winter, which has already been a snowy one, could be a big test. 

    To get more salt applicators on board, Westphal sees three things that need to happen: Grant money for brining equipment and other materials, protection from lawsuits, and finally, some pressure from the state to heavily encourage people to make the switch. 

    Westphal said it comes down to “selling people on the right thing versus the easy thing.” 

    The Mississippi River, running just blocks away from their downtown campus, serves as a powerful reminder of why he thinks it’s right. 

    Road salts wash into Mississippi River, damaging ecosystems and pipes is a post from Wisconsin Watch, a nonprofit investigative news site covering Wisconsin since 2009. 

  • 23 Jan 2023 6:39 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Reduce salt use this winter | Outdoors |

    MADISON – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Wisconsin Salt Wise invite the public to learn more about the impacts of road salt on drinking water and freshwater ecosystems during Wisconsin Salt Awareness Week Jan. 23-27.

    Wisconsin Salt Awareness Week will include a series of YouTube livestreamsfeaturing speakers and topics focused on the true cost of salt and how to be a freshwater advocate. Speakers include Sujay Kaushal (University of Maryland), Charlie Paradis (University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee), Allison Couture (University of Wisconsin–Madison), Shannon Haydin (Wisconsin DNR) and Allison Madison (Wisconsin Salt Wise). Register in advance or watch afterward on the Wisconsin Salt Wise YouTube Channel.

    While salt keeps Wisconsin roads safe during winter, using more salt than needed comes at a price. In Wisconsin and much of the United States, chlorides from salt are infiltrating lakes, streams and groundwater. According to Wisconsin Salt Wise, 1 teaspoon of salt is all it takes to make 5 gallons of water toxic for freshwater organisms.

    The DNR measures chloride levels in Wisconsin rivers over time, monitoring cumulative chloride loading results at 26 of the state’s largest river systems. Recent studies have shown a steep increase in chloride loads. In the early 2000s, the DNR measured about 600,000 tons of chlorides annually. By 2018, that number increased to nearly 800,000 tons per year. Fifty lakes and one stream in Wisconsin have been designated as impaired by high salt concentrations.

    These increased chloride loads are partly due to road salting, but chlorides also enter Wisconsin waters because of water softeners and fertilizers. Find out if your softener is salt-wise with this diagnostic tool.

    Increased chloride levels have significant impacts on our daily lives, including environmental and economic effects. Nationwide, winter salt causes $5 billion in damage to infrastructure each year, causing corrosion of bridges, roads and other infrastructure. Road salt can also impact pets by causing irritated paws or other health concerns if ingested.

    Salt tips for Wisconsin residents

    Reducing salt use is key to decreasing chloride loads. Follow these steps to right-size your salt use:

    Shovel. Clear walkways and other areas before the snow turns to ice. The more snow removed manually, the less salt you will need and the more effective it will be.

    Scatter. When using salt, scatter it so that there is space between the grains. A 12-ounce coffee mug of salt is enough to treat an entire 20-foot driveway or 10 sidewalk squares. If you see over-salting, follow these simple steps to help educate others about salt.

    Switch. Salt won’t work when pavement temperatures drop below 15 degrees. Switch to sand for traction or a different ice melter that works at lower temperatures.

    Statewide reduction efforts

    The DNR works to reduce chlorides at the source through permitting programs for municipalities and industries. These measures include tuning up or replacing water softeners, identifying significant chloride contributors and finding reductions, process efficiencies or improvements and instituting sewer use ordinances.

    Additionally, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation works with Wisconsin counties to reduce road salt application using brine and pre-wetting road surfaces, both of which significantly reduce salt use.

  • 19 Jan 2023 6:56 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Reduce salt use this winter | News |

    The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Wisconsin Salt Wise invite the public to learn more about the impacts of road salt on our drinking water and freshwater ecosystems during Wisconsin Salt Awareness Week, Jan. 23-27, 2023.

    Wisconsin Salt Awareness Week will include livestreams featuring speakers and topics focused on the true cost of salt and how to be a freshwater advocate. Speakers include Sujay Kaushal (University of Maryland), Charlie Paradis (University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee), Allison Couture (University of Wisconsin – Madison), Shannon Haydin (Wisconsin DNR) and Allison Madison (Wisconsin Salt Wise). Register in advance or watch afterward on the WI Salt Wise YouTube Channel.

    While salt keeps Wisconsin roads safe during winter, using more salt than needed comes at a price. In Wisconsin and much of the U.S., chlorides from salt are infiltrating lakes, streams, and groundwater. According to Wisconsin Salt Wise, one teaspoon of salt is all it takes to make five gallons of water toxic for freshwater organisms.

    The DNR measures chloride levels in Wisconsin rivers over time, monitoring cumulative chloride loading results at 26 of the state’s largest river systems. Recent studies have shown a steep increase in chloride loads. In the early 2000s, the DNR measured about 600,000 tons of chlorides annually. By 2018, that number increased to nearly 800,000 tons per year. Fifty lakes and one stream in Wisconsin have been designated as impaired by high salt concentrations.

    These increased chloride loads are partly due to road salting, but chlorides also enter Wisconsin waters because of water softeners and fertilizers. Find out if your softener is salt-wise with this diagnostic tool.

    Increased chloride levels have significant impacts on our daily lives, including environmental and economic effects. Nationwide, winter salt causes $5 billion in damage to infrastructure each year, causing corrosion of bridges, roads, and other infrastructure. Road salt can also impact pets by causing irritated paws or other health concerns if ingested.

    Salt Tips for Wisconsin Residents

    Reducing salt use is key to decreasing chloride loads. Follow these steps to right-size your salt use:

    • Shovel: Clear walkways and other areas before the snow turns to ice. The more snow removed manually, the less salt you will need and the more effective it will be.
    • Scatter: When using salt, scatter it so that there is space between the grains. A 12-ounce coffee mug of salt is enough to treat an entire 20-foot driveway or 10 sidewalk squares. If you see oversalting, follow these simple steps to help educate others about salt.
    • Switch: Salt won’t work when pavement temperatures drop below 15 degrees. Switch to sand for traction or a different ice melter that works at lower temperatures.

    Statewide Reduction Efforts

    The DNR works to reduce chlorides at the source through permitting programs for municipalities and industries. These measures include tuning up or replacing water softeners, identifying significant chloride contributors, and finding reductions, process efficiencies or improvements and instituting sewer use ordinances.

    Additionally, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation works with Wisconsin counties to reduce road salt application using brine and pre-wetting road surfaces, both of which significantly reduce salt use.

    For more information on the DNR’s efforts to monitor chlorides and reduce their effects, visit the DNR’s Salt and Storm Water website here.

  • 18 Jan 2023 8:29 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Salty decision: Why the City of Barrie will be sprinkling more salt than normal on roads this winter (

    You may find the decision a bit abrasive, but the City of Barrie was left with few options.

    The deteriorating condition of the Ferndale Drive North operations centre sand dome has forced the municipality to rethink its winter maintenance plans for road infrastructure.

    Operations director Dave Friary says a structural inspection of the dome, carried out in the fall, revealed the building could not be used to store sand this season.

    Instead, sand will be swapped for salt during more moderate temperatures at the beginning and end of winter. Salt will be used at low application only when required, to minimize environmental implications, he said.

    “The trucks are all computerized now; they have spin rates and it cuts down on the amount we put down,” Friary said. “The last thing we want to do is contaminate (Kempenfelt) Bay.”

    As salt supply depletes this winter, room will open for sand in an operations centre storage building, he said.

    Typically, residential roads are maintained to snow-packed condition by plowing, then applying sand for traction.

    But sand has limited effectiveness because it often blows off roads quickly. And high levels of chloride, one of the main components in winter salt, has become an issue in watersheds across northeastern North America, Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority environmental science and monitoring manager David Lembcke said.

    “Barrie is very savvy with their winter maintenance,” he said. “They recognize anything you put down has an impact. There’s a bit of a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t.’  It’s juggling human safety versus environmental impact.”

    Lembcke said chloride concentration in the lake has increased by .7 mg/L annually since 1971. And 81 per cent of all salt entering Simcoe comes off roads.

    Salt concentration above the 120 mg/L threshold can affect the health of some sensitive freshwater species; 640 mg/L will kill many of those off altogether. Many urban creeks already exceed the first number throughout most of the winter and can surpass the second after melting events. 

    Municipalities are more frequently applying less-salty anti-icing and brining techniques in advance of storms.

    But climate change, and expanding road infrastructure from population growth, often offset those efforts.

    “If we expect I can go out on bare roads an hour after snowfall, that puts unbelievable strain on winter maintenance,” Lembcke said.

    The city’s plan also means a street-sweeping recycling program, where sand is reclaimed and reused at a roughly $200,000 annual cost savings to the municipality, has been suspended indefinitely. It also didn’t run last year.

    Dieter Mueller, who ran unsuccessfully for a councillor seat in the recent municipal election, has long advocated for the recycling program to be kiboshed. He alleges it risks exposing residents to heavy metal, asbestos from some stretches of pavement, microplastics and vehicle liquids.

    “I guess my message got through to them,” he said. “The amount of contaminants in the sand, once it is swept off the street, is quite high. It becomes dangerous. If it goes back on the street the following winter, it increases. It’s like compound interest.”

    Friary disagrees with Mueller’s claim.

    “It’s an accepted practice,” Friary said. “We (had) it tested annually and everything works out. It’s environmentally friendly. We take out all the large pieces — the coffee cups, cans (and) sticks. We’re reusing a product, rather than buying clean, virgin sand. We use 75 per cent virgin sand and mix in the street sweepings; it’s not all recycled.”

    The city’s new salt plan meets Ontario’s maintenance standards for municipal highways. It is expected to remain in place until the operations yard is redeveloped, likely within two years. An update on the project is expected to be presented to council this spring, he said.

  • 13 Jan 2023 7:39 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    P.E.I. watershed groups urge Islanders to keep road salt away from waterways  | CBC News

    Watershed groups on P.E.I. have created education campaigns encouraging Islanders to use less road salt — and keep it out of waterways — because of the impact on animals and the environment. 

    The Trout River Environmental Committee (TREC) launched its campaign last week, in partnership with the Wheatley River Improvement Group. 

    "The purpose is mostly just to raise awareness of the issue. A lot of people don't know the impacts of road salt, so we wanted to get the word out," said Shayla Steinhoff, project manager for TREC.

    "We really want to highlight vulnerable areas, and identifying these vulnerable areas, and then also creating management plans for them."

    Steinhoff said vulnerable areas would include water courses and wetlands — areas where road salt run-off is happening, especially off major highways.

    "Some mitigation measures could be creating vegetative buffers around roadways," Steinhoff said.

    "Decreasing the risk of run-off directly into waterways, as well as making sure that we have good buffer zones around our streams." 

    Protecting wildlife

    One of the examples in the campaign is the wood frog.

    "That would be because of their very thin and delicate membrane, and also the amount of time they spend in the egg," Steinhoff said 

    "Road salt contamination can cause a number of different impacts on wood frogs, from them not being in the area, to increased mortality rates or not being able to go through metamorphosis."

    Steinhoff said road salt also has an impact on brook trout, birds, plants, soils and mammals. 

    "Mammals can often be drawn to the roadside to consume salt and because of this they can be struck by vehicles, the biggest one here being the snowshoe hare," Steinhoff said.

    Steinhoff said her group realizes that reducing the use of road salt will take time because it also keeps people safe.

    "It's something we need to work on until we have better alternatives that are as cheap as road salt,"Steinhoff said

    "It is also something that we wouldn't see the results for a number of years, or decades, just because of the storage of road salt contaminants in groundwater."

    Tips for homeowners

    The Stratford Area Watershed Improvement Group has also created a social media campaign around the impacts of road salt, including tips for homeowners.

    "Try shovelling first, shovelling everything you can. You might realize you don't need as much road salt," said project manager Lily McLaine.

    "It's also important to just sprinkle some salt on the icy parts of your driveway, or just around your car, not the entire driveway if that's not necessary." 

    "We highly recommend if you live close to a stream, within 100 metres or so, to opt for using sand or a mix of sand and salt for your driveways. You can also opt for other alternatives such as sand mixes and sawdust."

    P.E.I. sends an annual update to Environment and Climate Change Canada, reporting its progress on the national code of practice for the environmental management of road salts.

    A spokesperson for the P.E.I. Department of Transportation said the province does have a salt management plan that is reviewed after every winter season.

    "While P.E.I. does not have a formal inventory or action plan of vulnerable areas identified, we are familiar with the provincial landscape. It should also be noted that only 10 per cent of our Island road network receives road salt."

    "We strive to use only the amount necessary to keep the travelling public safe. We receive road forecasts multiple times a day which helps staff determine when, and how much material should be spread."

  • 06 Jan 2023 6:32 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Credit Valley Conversation Wants You to ‘Salt Responsibly’ | FM101 Orangeville Today

    Winter has arrived.

    It is the season of driving in the dark to and from work.

    Cold, blowing, snowy days, shoveling snow until the piles are higher than an NBA basketball player and sensible winter gripping footwear is a must.

    To help the public travel safely winter maintenance chemicals, predominantly sodium chloride often referred to simply as road salt, have been stocked up, and equipment has been calibrated.

    The winter maintenance crews are out early preparing sidewalks, parking lots, local roads and highways for safe travelling by the public.

    However, there are many impacts from the use of road salt and other winter maintenance chemicals.

    They include damage to infrastructure and vehicles, impacts to the environment (land and water) and damages to vegetation and crops.

    By ‘Salting Responsibly’ we can balance human safety on our roads, walkways and parking lots with keeping our environment and drinking water sources healthy.

    The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority has made great efforts in researching and understanding the impacts of road salt from a watershed perspective.

    They found that chloride concentrations are increasing in rivers, streams and within Lake Simcoe itself!

  • 03 Jan 2023 7:04 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Peel Region using salt wisely to protect the environment, wildlife (

    Peel Region is using salt mindfully this winter and reminding residents to use road and sidewalk salt wisely as well.

    Winter road operations in Peel are underway as snow and icy conditions continue, a recent news release stated. Colder nights at or below freezing can cause the formation of ice on the cold pavement, resulting in roads that are less safe for travel.

    As snow or freezing rain conditions continue, road and sidewalk crews, parking lot owners and residents apply rock salt. Unfortunately, salt doesn’t disappear when snow and ice melts as it mixes with water from melting snow or rain and ends up in our rivers and lakes. This salt can harm the environment, wildlife, and quality of our drinking water, the release added.

    To ensure driver safety and support a healthy environment, Peel Region said it monitors the weather and sends trucks to apply liquid salt brine to roads and bridges, where needed. The water in the brine evaporates and the salt residue leftover forms a barrier to reduce slippery conditions.

    Salt brine contains less salt and sticks to the roadway; whereas, solid rock salt, when spread on a dry roadway, will scatter to the edges by moving vehicles and more will have to be applied, the release added. If there is no precipitation, the salt brine stays active on the road for several days.

    “We are committed to keeping our roads safe and clear of snow and ice while applying salt responsibly. Peel Region roads operations continue to research new methods and alternatives to help reduce the amount of salt used, while maintaining our bare pavement standards,” said Mark Crawford, manager of road operations and maintenance, transportation and public works for Peel.

    “The region has a salt management plan in place that focuses on best practices and techniques to ensure the safety of our residents while minimizing the impacts of salt to the environment.”

    Peel Region is asking residents to use salt wisely this winter by sharing the following tips:

    • Shovel first. Clear snow from your driveway and walkways as soon as possible.

    • Only use salt once the snow is removed in areas needed for safety.

    • Only use salt in temperatures above -10 C and try using alternatives such as sand, grit or non-clumping kitty litter when temperatures dip below -10 C.

    • Remember salt doesn’t need to be seen to be working.

    • Excess salt left on driveways and walkways can be swept up and used another time.

    Learn how to manage salt use at home or at commercial properties and what the region is doing to reduce salt use while maintaining safe roads.

  • 19 Dec 2022 7:21 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    The Weather Network - Is road salt hurting salmon? UBC and volunteers are investigating

    The potential environmental impacts from road salt have been widely documented, including negative effects on wildlife, so it stands to reason that salmon could be on the receiving end of it.

    Could too much road salt in the streams be one of the causes of declining Pacific salmon numbers? Well, that's what the University of British Columbia (UBC) is hoping to determine with absolute certainty.

    Researchers Patricia Schulte, Chris Wood and Colin Brauner are leading the initiative, joining forces with community groups to investigate road salt in streams and whether it could be harming Pacific salmon. They are looking into the seasonal impact of road salt in more than 20 streams around the Lower Mainland, as well as growing baby salmon from eggs in high saltwater in the lab.

    Road salt can take a toll on vehicles, infrastructure and the environment, mainly from the inevitable melt that occurs in the spring.

    "When the ice melts, it washes off the roads and gets into groundwater and runs across the surface into rivers and streams. And it's not like you could taste salt in the streams, but there's enough salt in there that it can be harmful to fish," said Schulte in a recent interview with The Weather Network.

    Salt's effects on fish and other wildlife

    While not a lot is known about the effects of road salt on Pacific salmon currently, it can stunt the growth of other closely related species such as the Atlantic salmon and the rainbow trout, Schulte said.

    "It can reduce their survival and it can just make them generally unhealthy and less successful. So it's a real problem," said Schulte. "Here in B.C...the [Pacific salmon] babies are born in the fall and they grow through the winter as little fish and the salt can harm them at that stage."

    It isn't just fish that road salt can negatively impact. It can have different effects on other wildlife, too, she said.

    The presence of salt in the water can adversely affect frogs and turtles, while any that accumulates on the side of the roads can be absorbed by plants, which are then eaten by insects such as butterflies, also reducing their survival, Schulte added.

    "It can cause like behavioural changes because it kind of messes up their brains a little bit. For birds, for example, the main problem is the actual rock salt when the birds mistake it for grit. Birds like to eat grit because it helps them digest their food," said Schulte. "In birds, even a little bit of salt can be dangerous."

    For bigger wildlife such as moose and caribou, they enjoy the taste of salt, which is "like eating potato chips," so it attracts them to the roads where they become exposed to potential vehicle collisions, the UBC researcher said,

    "It sort of depends on the animal, on what the effects are. But there are negative effects across lots of different kinds of animals," said Schulte.

    Road salt usage in Canada is rising: Schulte

    In 2020-21, at least 4.7 million tonnes of road salt was used across the country, according to data provided to The Weather Network from Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). The total doesn't include users not covered by ECCC’s code of practice such as domestic, private or institutional consumers, road organizations using less than 500 tonnes per year and Quebec, since it has its own strategy that records amounts.

    In a media release, Schulte said road salt use in Canada is increasing at about 2.5 per cent per year. In Vancouver, B.C., the city has 3,000 tonnes of salt in its yards for winter maintenance on streets and sidewalks.

    Of the amount of road salt used in the country in 2020-21, at least 831,242 tonnes of it were documented in B.C., according to ECCC.

    While scientists aren't 100 per cent certain road salt is affecting salmon, "we're pretty sure that it is," she said, noting there isn't a lot of monitoring of salt in water in B.C. currently.

    However, the observations seen so far suggest that at least some creeks around the Lower Mainland, including in the Metro Vancouver area, have enough salt in the waters to be "occasionally" more than seven times the acute toxic limit, and potentially as much as 28 times beyond the chronic toxic limit, Schulte added.

    "That's where long-term exposure could harm the fish. So, we know that at least at some times of the year, the levels are getting high enough that it can be harmful," said Schulte. "We don't know exactly the harms, and it may differ between different kinds of fish."

    Part of the issue is that salt doesn't enter the water continuously, but rather in pulses, especially in the Lower Mainland, she said, as it isn't used every day during the winter. "People haven't really studied the effect of these pulses as much. They've more so done a longer-term toxicity [review]," said Schulte.

    Volunteers helping UBC uncover the possible impacts

    Alan James, a volunteer streamkeeper with the Stoney Creek Environment Committee (SCEC) based in Burnaby, B.C., told The Weather Network recently the group has been examining the salt in the watercourse since 2005.

    The committee conducted its own study in the creek by putting salmon eggs in two different parts of it, James said. One section of it was contaminated by salt and the other was clean, with results showing there were differences. The analysis prompted a change in road salt usage from Simon Fraser University, but not all of it has been removed from the ground.

    "We've been looking at trying to find ways to deal with that and to understand just what the effect of salt is on the fish. And of course, citizen science is great, but it's not sufficient to move large organizations," said James.

    As a streamkeeper, James and his fellow SCEC members do counts of returning salmon in the fall and trap juveniles in the spring to see how many have hatched. The group also conducts studies on stream bugs to see what different species are in the watercourse -- indicative of its health, he noted.

    "That will be something that is part of what we have been doing for some time as streamkeeping groups," said James. "We will add that information in a more co-ordinated fashion to the work that Tricia [Schulte] and others are doing at UBC, Simon Fraser and BCIT [British Columbia Institute of Technology]."

    Citizen scientists and volunteer groups such as SCEC gives UBC researchers the "boots on the ground experience" in terms of what's happening now, James said.

    "[While] the largest issue is the road salt that's put [out] by large organizations [and] municipalities...there is a large amount of road salt that gets put into the creeks from private residences," said James. "So, shovel first, use less salt [and] sweeping up afterwards can reduce the amount of salt that gets into the environment."

    How we can 'use it better'

    Schulte cited a number of things we can do to help reduce salt usage in the winter. For example, we can use the same road salt we've always been employing, "but use it better."

    "Store it more securely, so that it doesn't drain away from the storage areas. Use it less because usually [you] put on more than you really need. And only use it when it's really going to be helpful," said Schulte.

    Other tips from UBC include:

    • You can use sand, which is more environmentally friendly, and grit
    • You can use other formulations including pet-friendly salts, which are thought to be less dangerous for animals, including salmon
    • When you’re salting your driveway, don’t put the road salt in clumps. Spread it out to achieve the same effect while using less salt

    You can find other environmentally friendly alternatives to road salt, here.

    "There [are] a variety of things you can do, depending on the extent of the problem. And that's actually part of what we're trying to figure out in this research...just exactly how big is the problem," said Schulte.

    "If the amount of salt we're using is not too terrible, then probably small adjustments in what we're doing will be fine. But if it's really bad, then we have to make bigger changes."

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