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  • 24 Mar 2021 6:05 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    How a B.C. snow plow dispute made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada | National Observer

    The Supreme Court of Canada will review a case on whether or not the city of Nelson, B.C. is responsible for a leg injury a woman sustained while climbing over a snow bank created by the city’s snowplows.

    The dispute started in January 2015, when Nelson resident Taryn Marchi parked her car in Nelson’s downtown core on a snowy day. While exiting her car, Marchi found herself blocked in by a snowbank left over when the city had plowed the adjacent sidewalk.

    Marchi decided to try to get to the sidewalk by walking over the snowbank in her running shoes. What happened next was a severe leg injury that landed her in the hospital.

    The courts did not initially favour Marchi, who decided immediately to sue the city of Nelson for negligence. When the case was first taken to the B.C. Supreme Court, it was dismissed by Justice Mark McEwan on Mar. 8, 2019. In his decision, he said that Marchi was “the author of her own misfortune” citing her choice of footwear on a snowy day. He ruled that the city of Nelson has followed their regular operations and held no liability in the case.

    But it was the issue of liability that Marchi was specifically seeking out. She had already settled damage costs with the city, after incurring a severe knee injury that had to see her transferred to a Kelowna hospital.

    o she decided to appeal. On Jan. 2, the B.C. Court of Appeal found that McEwan’s decision favoured the city and neglected Marchi’s claims that the city was responsible for creating pathways for pedestrians as part of their plowing operations. The judge's ruling was overturned and the court ordered a new trial.

    In response, the City of Nelson sought leave to appeal from the Supreme Court of Canada, which the court granted on Aug. 20.

    The difference between the initial ruling and court of appeal’s view boils down to the difference between policy decisions and operational decisions made by the city of Nelson.

    In McEwan’s view, the city was not liable because they were policy based — the city had specific policy-based plans on how roads were cleared. They’re based on the availability of workers and prioritize getting roads cleared first, in a specific order, before dealing with snowbanks. Policy-based decisions are immune from liability.

    But the court of appeal said McEwan was wrong to assume that the circumstances that led to Marchi’s accident were because of policy. They first pointed out that the city didn’t actually have any policy about snow banks left from plowing and whether passageways should be made through them for pedestrians. So they ruled that McEwan’s ruling, which assumed that everything was policy-based, was subject to argument.

    The Supreme Court of Canada will hear the case, but has yet to set a date.

    Marchi’s dispute with the city could change the way future liability cases are handled in Canada.

    In their appeal, B.C. judges referenced a horrific case in 1989, when a man named John Just sued the province after a boulder from a rocky slope besides a highway crashed down into his car, killing Just’s daughter and leaving him severely injured. The court ruled that maintenance of rock slopes was outlined in the province’s policy, and so they were immune to liability.

    The difference between “policy” and “operational” was as ambiguous back then as it is now. In the Just ruling, the judge noted that it was an issue that was “difficult to be fixed” but “essential that it be done.”

    Marchi’s case will depend on how the court defines the city’s actions. While at its core, this is a case between one woman and a city, the implications of the ruling could come to redefine liability laws when it comes to public authorities and push governments across the country to reconsider the scope of their role in public safety.


  • 24 Mar 2021 6:04 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Supreme Court of Canada set to help settle snow-clearing squabble | National Post

    OTTAWA — It’s starting to feel like spring for many Canadians, but the country’s top court is about to wade into the issue of snow removal from wintry city streets.

    The Supreme Court of Canada hearing Thursday could also help settle the question of when a public body such as a municipal government can be held liable for its decisions.

    Taryn Joy Marchi alleged the City of Nelson, B.C., created a hazard when it cleared snow from downtown streets after a storm in early January 2015.

    The removal effort left snow piles at the edge of the street along the sidewalk early in the morning of Jan. 5.

    Late in the afternoon of Jan. 6, Marchi parked in an angled spot on the street and, wearing running shoes with a good tread, tried to cross a snow pile to get on to the sidewalk.

    Her right foot dropped through the snow and she fell forward, injuring her leg and winding up in hospital.

    Marchi contended the city should have left openings in the snowbank to allow safe passage to the sidewalk.

    She pointed to the neighbouring municipalities of Castlegar, Rossland and Penticton in arguing there were preferable ways to clear the streets so as to ensure safe access for pedestrians.

    However, a judge dismissed her case, saying the city was immune from liability because it made legitimate policy decisions about snow clearing based on the availability of personnel and resources.

    In any event, the judge concluded, Marchi assumed the risk of crossing the snow pile and was “the author of her own misfortune.”

    The B.C. Court of Appeal overturned the decision and ordered a new trial, saying the judge erred in addressing the city’s duty of care and the question of Marchi’s negligence.

    Certain decisions of the city’s street cleaning crew may properly have been characterized as “operational in nature” as opposed to policy decisions, the appeal court concluded.

    The ruling prompted the City of Nelson to seek a hearing in the Supreme Court.

    In a written submission to the high court, the city says its actions are “a clear example of a core policy decision” that should be immune from liability.

    The city’s written and unwritten snow-removal policies plainly engage in a balancing of interests among competing parties, the submission says. “This is the core of a political decision — allocating scarce resources based on a good faith exercise of discretion.”

    In her filing with the Supreme Court, Marchi says city employees made a number of operational decisions that fell below the expected standard of care of a municipality — decisions not required by the written policy.

    “With respect to standard of care, the trial judge never properly addressed the reasonableness of the decision to create the hazard and leave it in place for 30 hours,” Marchi argues.

    “Instead, the trial judge rested his analysis on the fact that the city had followed its policy.”

    This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 24, 2021.


  • 21 Mar 2021 8:26 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Summerside woman spurs action after city dumps snow, road scrapings on garden | CBC News

    The city of Summerside is reviewing its guidelines for snow clearing after a homeowner raised concerns when a pile of snow loaded with road salt and asphalt scrapings was dumped on her organic garden.

    Kim Lyon says she spent thousands of dollars planting tomatoes, herbs, beets, potatoes and other vegetables and flowers on the south side of her property last summer.

    She fears the salty snow has caused significant damage to the soil and plants.

    "I was standing at the window and I watched a snowplow going by and they basically put four feet of very dirty, slushy snow and salt scrapings from the road all over the garden," she said.

    "It just seemed really wrong to me, to put that stuff. I went out and looked at it and I was pretty upset because I understand what salt does to gardens."

    That was on Feb. 22. She contacted her councillor, Norma McColeman, that day and she quickly responded.

    Lyon said the city has been good about responding to her emails, but as of Saturday nothing had been done.

    In an email Friday, the Summerside CAO Ron Philpott apologized to Lyon and agreed to "clean up what it can." The email also said the city is "working on some guidelines which will be communicated to residents, regarding the marking and delineation of areas that our snow clearing operations will seek to avoid in future."

    In an interview with CBC on Saturday, McColeman said those guidelines could include signs alerting the plow operators, or implementing a system where residents could notify the city of gardens or other sensitive areas on private property to be mindful of.

    "If the crews are not aware that there is anything under the dead of snow, or if it's a weather system and a big storm, they have no idea unless the residents would have some type of a designation."

    Plow operators try to work quickly

    McColeman said for safety reasons, plow operators are often trying to clear the roads as quickly as possible and need to pile the snow somewhere.

    "As I say and I do as a comparison with Charlottetown, if you're from Charlottetown you see what Charlottetown does, they leave it in the middle of the road, so I mean I think when we're dealing with a very short street, they only have so much area from say the curb to the property owner, and they try to do the best they can."

    Lyon said she understands the need for safety and plowing the snow, and understands the need for a certain amount of salt. But she said her circumstance was different.

    "This wasn't snow. Snow we don't mind. They can put as much snow as they want on our yard during the winter. This was the road scrapings."

    She would like to have the dirty snow trucked away as it is cleared.

    "This will be ongoing and it will affect everybody or a lot of people over time it's not just a simple, 'Oh, I got hurt' sort of thing," she said.

    "I don't want anybody punished, I don't want to create problems. I just don't want something like this to happen again."


  • 11 Mar 2021 11:03 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Editor’s Notebook: Next Gen Deicers - Snow Magazine (snowmagazineonline.com)

    For decades, rock salt has been the main tool snow fighters employ to manage and mitigate ice buildup on pavement surfaces. It’s ideal because rock salt is relatively cheap and – with a little heat and moisture – it’s highly effective.

    However, rock salt has been generating headlines lately for its negative impact on the environment. Most notably, rock salt has been linked to rising salinity levels in freshwater bodies, which poses a risk to aquatic inhabitants. As a result, the race is on to find more a next-generation deicer that is environmentally conscious, yet cost-effective. In addition to integrating brine to reduce salt use in ice mitigation practices, researchers and industry innovators have sought more unique alternatives, such as beet juice, fermentation castoffs, and exotic compounds.

    However, scientists now are taking cues from the animal world. Researchers have known insects and spiders native to Alaska create antifreeze proteins that lower the freezing point of water by a few degrees and allows them to survive frigid temps. Similarly, some fish create antifreeze proteins that prohibits their blood from freezing in extreme climates.

    Unfortunately, outside the body these antifreeze proteins break down quickly, making them ineffective and impractical for snow and ice management.  

    However, researchers at the University of Denver recently reported they’re working on a synthetic version of these antifreeze proteins known as polyvinyl alcohol (PVA). According to the researchers, PVA is a simple, inexpensive compound that is nontoxic to humans and aquatic life. In fact, it’s found in everyday personal care products. It also doesn’t degrade quickly, which makes it more practical as a spray-on ice mitigation tool or as a coating to other deicing substance.

    To make it applicable for snow and ice management, though, research must first engineer PVA to be more like the antifreeze proteins utilized in the animals that endure in extremely cold habitats. No timetable was given for when this next generation ice mitigation product will be ready for testing or available to the commercial snow and ice industry.


  • 11 Mar 2021 10:38 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Study finds Toronto rivers and watershed contaminated with road salt — even in summer | The Star

    Road salt applied in wintertime is threatening at least two-thirds of the aquatic life found in the four rivers within the Greater Toronto Area.

    A new University of Toronto study, published Thursday, shows that even during the summer, almost 90 per cent of the 214 sampled sites exceeded the federal chronic exposure guidelines for chloride.

    The United States and Canada, respectively, apply roughly 24.5 million and seven million tonnes of road salt annually. In Ontario, chloride enters water systems primarily through the annual application of three to five million tonnes of road salt, used as an anti-icing method for winter road maintenance, according to the city of Toronto.

    “Our results suggest that even presumed low seasons for chloride show concentrations sufficient to cause significant negative impacts to aquatic communities,” the study concludes.

    Canadian Lauren Lawson, a graduate student at the University of Toronto, and Donald A. Jackson, an ecology and evolutionary biology professor at University of Toronto, were lead authors of the study.

    The study was funded by the NSERC Discovery Grant and funding from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and published in FACETS, Canada’s first and only multidisciplinary open access science journal.

    The study looked at Humber River, Don River, Etobicoke Creek, Mimico Creek and their associated tributaries from headwater locations north and northwest of Toronto.

    Almost all sites in Toronto surpassed the chronic threshold for chloride of 120 mg/L during summertime. For the most part, only upstream sites away from the urban areas, such as largely forested regions sampled in the less urbanized upper Humber River, show concentrations below the chronic threshold.


  • 11 Mar 2021 10:37 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    https://undark.org/2021/03/11/road-salt-imperils-aquatic-ecosystems/

    DURING THIS UNUSUALLY snowy year, the rumble of snowplows and salt trucks has become a familiar — and comforting — winter soundtrack across the northern U.S. In southern Vermont, where I live, we received more than 100 inches of snow through February, about twice the typical snowfall for that time of year. Undoubtedly, de-icing salts have prevented numerous accidents on otherwise slick roads.

    Although salt contributes to road safety, it racks up high hidden costs. In the U.S., salt damage to infrastructure and the economy is estimated to total between $19.8 billion and $45 billion annually. That includes damage to roadways, bridges, vehicles, tourism, and property values. For example, salt can leach calcium out of concrete and rust steel rebar, a process sometimes known as “concrete cancer” that rots bridges from the inside with few outward warning signs.

    For all their economic costs, road salts may take an even steeper toll on the environment. As salty runoff infiltrates streams and lakes, it can upset freshwater ecosystems. Authors of a 2017 study estimated that 7,770 North American lakes — about 20 percent of those in the study region — may have elevated chloride concentrations. And this number may be an underestimate, say the authors.

    If trends continue, the study concludes, many of these lakes will be too salty to support life within 50 years. Lakes with roads and parking lots nearby are most at risk; 70 percent of these lakes are likely to have elevated chloride levels, based on the study’s sample.

    Excess salt can damage entire aquatic food chains, including zooplanktonsalamanders and frogsfishshellfish, and aquatic plants. At high concentrations, salt can stunt the growth of some fish, making them more vulnerable to predators. It can tilt male-to-female ratios of amphibian populations out of balance. And it can kill off algae-eating zooplankton, allowing algae to grow unchecked into smelly, goopy, hazardous blooms.

    Even organic additives made from natural substances like beet juice and molasses, used to improve salt’s melting power, can have unintended consequences. One study found that two common additives, GeoMelt and Magic Salt, caused mosquito larvae to mature and hatch earlier than usual.

    Flora Krivak-Tetley, an ecologist at Dartmouth College who co-authored the 2017 study, says that salt concentrations in most lakes have not reached the threshold the Environmental Protection Agency’s deems lethal for aquatic life. But salt can throw an ecosystem out of balance well before that happens, she notes.

    And this is to say nothing of the enormous carbon footprint associated with transporting and distributing the salt, much of which arrives on barges from countries such as Chile and Egypt.

    How, then, can we balance our need for safe roads with our duty to protect the environment?

    If trends continue, the study concludes, many of these lakes will be too salty to support life within 50 years.

    In 2015, the not-for-profit FUND for Lake George, in upstate New York, launched an effort to answer that question. They started by working with towns around Lake George to determine just how much salt they used. Maintenance managers deployed GPS to track trucks’ speed and position, and used sensors to measure how fast salt was being released. This feedback allowed road crews to calibrate their distribution rates, saving money, salt, and effort.

    Next, leaders in the Lake George region experimented with ways to keep the roads clear using less salt. They found it worked well to pretreat roads with salt brine before winter storms. The liquid prevents snow and ice from bonding with the asphalt, making it easier to scrape roads clean. Unlike grains of rock salt, which often bounce onto road shoulders, brine largely adheres to its target.

    Area officials found that, pound for pound, brine was far more efficient than traditional rock salt. They could protect a lane-mile of road with a solution containing under 100 pounds of salt, roughly one third the amount used by rock-salt trucks.

    Last, the towns switched to live-edge plows, which have flexible blades made up of multiple, independently moving sections mounted on springs. These state-of-the-art blades are more thorough than conventional ones. And starting with brine makes the plows even more efficient, says Eric Siy, executive director of The FUND for Lake George. If live-edge snowplows are like razors that hug the curves, brine is like shaving cream.

    The sweeping changes to road care required a culture shift within the towns’ maintenance departments. But black roads and shortened plowing times ultimately convinced road crews near Lake George to embrace sustainable winter management. Over two years of using brine and live-blade plows, these communities cut their salt usage in half, a drop that maintenance officials say can’t be explained by weather variations.


  • 08 Mar 2021 8:02 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Today marks the start of the 2021 World Salt Awareness Week. The effort is designed to help bring awareness of the damaging effect of too much salt on our health, and while the focus has typically been on salt in diet the negative impacts of salt related to poor winter maintenance practice also have a detrimental impact on human health.

    The use of best management practices (BMP's) in winter maintenance has been empirically proven to help with the problem.

    The Smart About Salt Council (SASC), is a not-for-profit organization that has been working transnationally to address the growing challenge of over-use of salt in winter maintenance. SASC offers award-winning training, certification and program verification. Learn more at www.smartaboutsalt.com.


  • 05 Mar 2021 3:20 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Driving into the Future: When will autonomous cars be ready for Canada? | Driving

    On March 10, Driving is presenting the latest in its series of Driving into the Future virtual panels: When will autonomous cars be ready for Canada? This may come as a surprise but we at Driving are as confused as you are about the future of autonomous automobiles.

    That’s not because self-driving cars are incredibly complicated; rather, it’s the conflicting messages being put forward by automakers, politicians, and industry analysts. On one hand we have reports of Waymo self-driving cars already running around driverless in California. On the other, delays in the commercialization of self-driving cars seem endless.

    Making the matters more confusing for Canadians is our harsh climate, which creates even more challenging needs—the snow, ice, salt and sand that are a Canadian winter—making the production of robotic cars even more problematic.

    That’s why we’re presenting our When will autonomous cars be ready for Canada roundtable. In our discussion, we’ll disseminate the differences in levels of self-driving, from the merely automated driver aids we are familiar with today through the semi-autonomous and all the way to fully-robotic Level V autonomy. We’ll look into the differences in technologies needed to make self-driving work—cameras, radar and even lasers.

    Most of all however, we’ll try and determine how long it will be before the promise of self-driving is fulfilled. Will Canada, again because of its weather, lag behind more temperate climes? Can robots safely navigate a snow-covered road? How can we make these computerized cars more reliable when they’re covered in salt and sand? And, perhaps most importantly, if completely autonomous driving is in our future, will we even be allowed to drive our own cars?

    Helping us answer all those questions is Dr. Ryan Eustice, senior vice-president of Automated Driving at the Toyota Research Institute; Stefanie Bruinsma, University of Waterloo’s industry engagement officer; Paul Rudy, co-founder and CMO of Kyocera SLD Laser; and Raed Kadri, head of Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network.

    Join us on March 10, 11 AM as we explore yet more boundaries in automotive technology. What you learn may not only determine what you’ll drive in the future, but how you’ll be driven.


  • 04 Mar 2021 8:09 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Road salt levels in some local creeks toxic to aquatic life, says riverkeeper | CBC News

    The amount of road salt that people, businesses, and cities are using over the winter is likely too much and is definitely hurting local waterways, according to the Ottawa Riverkeeper.

    The organization began monitoring how much road salt is making its way into local creeks last winter as part of its road salt monitoring pilot project.

    The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment has established federal guidelines around the amount of chloride — which is partly what salt breaks down into when it dissolves in water — in waterbodies.

    Those guidelines state that 120 milligrams per litre leads to chronic, long-term toxicity, while anything above 640 milligrams per litre is considered acutely toxic.

    According to the Ottawa Riverkeeper, researchers found water samples containing chloride amounts five times the acute level.

    "Last year we were seeing levels well into the thousands," said Katy Alambo, a biologist with the Ottawa River Keeper. 

    "We've expanded the program [this year] and we're seeing similar if not higher numbers."

    Not only does chloride take a long time to break down further, it's also toxic to aquatic life such as fish, amphibians, invertebrates and insects.

    "High chloride levels can cause disruptions to their reproduction cycles, their growth cycles," Alambo said. 

    "In cases of species like amphibians who respire through their skin, it can also pose consequences there, too, and keep them from being able to breathe properly."

    You might be using too much salt

    As part of a pilot project that ran between January and March 2020, volunteers monitored five creeks — Pinecrest, Graham, Green, McKay, and Moore creeks — that were close to roads, shopping plazas, residential areas and anywhere else in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que., where high amounts of road salt could be used.

    They measured the water's conductivity at each of those creeks after a large snowfall, rainstorm, thaw, or any event that would lead to more water entering the creeks. 

    The conductivity of water rises the more dissolved ions like chloride there are. If the volunteers measured a certain level of conductivity, they then took a water sample to be analyzed.

    What they found, Alambo said, suggested too much road salt was being used.

    "We definitely understand that salt is important to keeping our roads safe," said Alambo. "One coffee mug full of road salt is pretty much all you need to de-ice one of your standard to two-car driveways."

    Salt is also ineffective at temperatures colder than –10 C, she added.

    Instead of salt, Alambo suggests using sand, gravel, or even cat litter to help provide traction.

    The Ottawa Riverkeeper also plans to approach the City of Ottawa about its salt use, especially as municipal officials are in the midst of reviewing the city's winter maintenance standards.


  • 26 Feb 2021 8:09 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    New Film Documents Lake George Road Salt Reduction - WIT Advisers

    As part of an effort to reduce the use of road salt in the Adirondacks, the FUND For Lake George has released a film to demonstrate how communities in the Lake George Basin have been able to use new technology to save money and protect the environment.

    Efforts to reduce the use of road salt in the Adirondacks have been gaining steam over the last few years.

    In December, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Randy Preston Road Salt Reduction Act. The new law creates a task force and begins a three-year pilot program to reduce salt use while keeping roads safe for driving during cold New York winters.

    Pre-dating the legislation, communities around Lake George entered a voluntary Memorandum of Understanding to reduce road salt use and protect the lake that drives the economy and provides clean drinking water to the region.

    Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky often says that salt levels in Lake George have tripled over the last 40 years – not to mention the impacts on groundwater and streams near roadways treated with salt.

    “When you think about the sodium levels, at the current rate that we’re seeing in the lake, those levels in 20 years – people with sodium-restricted diets, those people will not be able to drink water from the lake,” said Navitsky.

    Navitksy, along with FUND For Lake George Executive Director Eric Siy and consultant Phill Sexton, spoke Wednesday after the online screening of a new half-hour film that documents how the Town of Lake George, the Town of Hague, and Warren County have used new technology to reduce road salt use.

    During the film, which featured interviews with local municipal officials and public works employees, Lake George Highway Superintendent Rob Lanfear Jr., described how using a brine solution instead of traditional road salt, has reduced the need for repeat applications while also preventing roadways from icing over.

    “Some of our roads are different because we have such an elevation range — the higher elevations we may have to plow, but I’ve seen it with my own eyes…we may not have to send a crew out because we pre-treated the roads,” Lanfear says on film.

    The FUND For Lake George hopes that the film will inspire other communities to act in a similar way.

    FUND Executive Director Eric Siy says his organization is working “fist in glove” with the State Department of Transportation on its road salt reduction efforts, and he hopes the private sector will take notice too.

    “This is an all-in, all-out effort. It’s not going to be simply reducing the use on our roads. It’s everything, as stated, from sidewalks…parking lots are a huge contributor,” said Siy.

    Sexton, whose company WIT Advisors worked with the FUND’s Lake George Road Salt Reduction Initiative, said there haven’t been many new roadways put in around Lake George, even though salt levels have risen. He pointed to commercial development.

    “For every lane-mile of road in a commercial setting, you could have 50 lines miles – or in some cases hundreds of lane miles – of parking lot. So it just stands to reason that that’s where a lot of this salt could be coming from,” said Sexton.

    To view the film, The Road Map To Road Salt Reduction: Success Stories From Lake George visit: https://salt.fundforlakegeorge.org/


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