Environmentalists push for alternatives to road salt

11 Feb 2019 6:23 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

https://lfpress.com/news/local-news/environmentalists-push-for-alternatives-to-road-salt


A citizen advisory committee is urging city hall to adopt more environmentally friendly road treatments for the snowy, slippery winter season.

London’s busiest roads get hit with a cocktail of rock salt and beet juice to melt the snow and ice, while residential streets see sand sprinkled at hills and intersections to bump up traction.

But what one environmentalist dubbed an “addiction to road salt” c

omes at a price, some caution.

“It gets into the waterways, it gets into food sources for wildlife, and then, of course, with infrastructure, it causes quick erosion of bridges and roads and sewers and the whole gamut,” said Mike Bloxam, a member of city hall’s advisory committee on the environment.

Drivers have long fretted about the damage road salt does to vehicles, including speeding up rust.

Bloxam said staff and politicians should investigate alternatives, including more eco-friendly products that can be swept away the same way as sand in the spring road cleanup.

“I think there are ways we could plow (main roads) and apply other, non-corrosive, more environmentally friendly ice management tools than just simply always throwing down salt and being happy with it washing into the waterways,” he said.

John Parsons, manager of roadside operations, said city hall’s use of salt – and the liquid spray, which is a mix of beet juice and sodium chloride – is part of its salt management plan, an Environment Canada requirement for any city that uses more than 500 tonnes of salt.

London uses more than 40,000 tonnes of salt each year, spreading it across one-third of the road network.

“We only salt our main roads and bus routes, because they’re higher speed,” Parsons said.

The goal is to get down to bare pavement on those streets.

It’s an attempt to find a balance between reducing the driving dangers during the winter season and mitigating the drawbacks of scattering the salty stuff.

“We spread it for safety reasons,” Parsons said, adding that equipment and technology has helped improve practices, especially over the last decade or so.

One example is the calibration on trucks, to allow city hall’s fleet – and contracted vehicles – to spread exactly the right amount of salt depending on the amount of snow and the speed of the vehicle.

City crews also have the ability to spread a preventative layer of salt brine and beet juice on the road ahead of a snowfall, which helps stop snow from sticking to the road and makes plowing easier within a certain temperature range. That proactive strategy doesn’t use any rock salt, Parsons said.



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