World Wildlife Fund urging Ontarians to use less road salt

16 Dec 2019 7:36 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

The World Wildlife Fund is urging Ontarians to cut back on road salt. 

The environmental agency says road salt is a critical threat to freshwater and wildlife in the province. 

Elizabeth Hendriks is Vice-President of freshwater with WWF Canada, and appeared on The Mike Farwell Show on 570 NEWS on Tuesday. 

"In June of this past summer, we released a WWF Great Lakes Chloride Hot Spot Map. What we're looking at is an increasing trend of use. In the winter time, we can see the water has as much salt as oceans do in certain locations, so this is really damaging to our fresh water."

Hendriks said there's a lot of research looking at alternative methods.

"You hear about beet juice and different practices. At the scale that we need to use it though - with major highways and parking lots - we don't know that there's not other impacts. Some alternatives like beet juice can be used on a small scale, but we don't know about the larger impacts of those solutions."

Hendriks said the WWF is working with some municipalities, conservation authorities, and private property owners.

"We need to use less salt, but we don't want people to do that and then get a bunch of complaints. So it's really about knowing when to use salt .. beyond minus 10, road salt isn't that effective anymore. Shovelling is effective first, and distribution is really important. So we try to promote best practices with private industry, and working with the government to work on regulation that incentivize small business owners to use best practices as well."

According to the WWF, more than 7-million tonnes of road salt is used each winter by public road agencies in Canada. 

"It's cheap, it's easy to use, we know it's effective .. and a big part is, I don't think we knew the extent of the problem. When people hear about this issue, they really respond. They care about our fresh water, and so once we are aware of it, I think we'll really see people changing their actions."

Hendriks said this isn't a problem that can be fixed overnight.

"It will take time for a reduction. Even in the summer, we're seeing the impacts .. just because salt and the winter disappears, the salt isn't necessarily disappearing in a season. But ultimately the salt will dissipate as it works its way out of the environment."

To read more about the WWF's report, click here.

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