Responsible Use of Road Salt Maintains Road Safety and Minimizes Environmental Impact

    TORONTO, Dec. 5 /CNW/ - The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO)
2006/2007 Annual Report includes a section about the environmental impact of
road salt but little is said about responsible use and feasible alternatives
for keeping Ontario's roads safe.
    Winter storms cause accidents, impede emergency vehicles and school
buses, and negatively affect the economy. In addition, climate change has
resulted in more frequent freeze/thaw cycles, requiring more frequent salt
applications in many areas. "Yes, road salt used in excess will have a
detrimental impact on the environment but road salt used responsibly also
saves lives, reduces property damage, and keeps our economy on the move," says
Ontario Good Roads Association (OGRA) President, Jim Harrison. "There are no
completely benign alternatives to sodium chloride currently available but
improved salt management practices can minimize the negative impacts of salt
while keeping the roads safe," says Harrison.
    The Sierra Defence Fund (on behalf of the environmental group Riversides
Stewardship Alliance) submitted an application to the Ministry of Environment
for a review of the Environmental Protection Act. They requested that
Regulation 339 be revoked and replaced with a phased-in mandatory road salts
management regime under the EPA. This would, in effect, remove the exemption
that road salt now has under the EPA and would require municipalities to
obtain certificates of approval prior to being able to use road salt.
    "Environment Canada spent eight years reviewing the use of road salt,
developing the national Code of Practice for the Environmental Management of
Road Salts and promoting the voluntary adoption of the Code by road safety
organizations" says Joe Tiernay, OGRA Executive Director. "145 Ontario
municipalities voluntarily developed Salt Management Plans and 135 report
annually to Environment Canada on salt usage and winter maintenance practices
- an overwhelmingly positive response," says Tiernay.
    In addition to Salt Management Plans, municipalities have changed how
they store and apply salt to mitigate harmful effects. "Salt is being covered
and stored on impermeable pads and works yard runoff is controlled to prevent
entry into surface water. Water from washing the vehicles is also filtered and
controlled to prevent entry into surface water," says Tiernay. "In terms of
application, pre-wetting prevents the loss of 30% of salt applied and is more
effective. Technology to measure pavement and weather conditions controls the
application of salt to only when and where it is needed. Direct liquid
application before a winter event uses 1/3 less salt and allows plows to reach
bare pavement conditions much faster by preventing the bond of ice to the
pavement. Live snow fences are also being used in a number of municipalities."
    Education and training is another tool for responsible salt use. "OGRA
has trained more than 1000 front line operators, supervisors and patrollers in
advanced winter maintenance practices, and through train-the-trainer session,
we have reached more than 5000 municipal employees and contractors," says
Harrison. "For now, the use of road salt must continue to maintain our roads
responsibly and effectively. But municipalities are also doing what they can
to protect the environment."

    The Ontario Good Roads Association represents the infrastructure
interests of municipalities through advocacy, consultation, training and the
delivery of identified services. OGRA currently serves 422 municipal members
and 21 First Nations communities. Visit for more information.

For further information:

For further information: Jayne Patterson, Ontario Good Roads
Association, (905) 795-2555 or

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Ontario Good Roads Association

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