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  • 31 Oct 2018 1:32 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Friday, October 26, 2018, 3:17 PM - There is nothing sweet about this salty story. Ontario is in a scramble when it comes to salt supply this season.

    Multiple factors have contributed to the shortage, including the spring ice storm in April that dramatically lowered a solid supply leftover from last winter. The Town of Goderich, which is home to the world’s largest road salt mine, experienced a 12-week strike in the summer, resulting in 40 per cent less harvest. In addition, just south of the border the Cargill salt mine in Cleveland, Ohio, has depleted reserves due to a leak that disrupted their ability to extract salt.

    The good news is municipalities have first access to the current reserves. The Weather Network contacted many winter operation departments across southern Ontario, and all have responded with a positive outcome. This salt shortage will not have an impact on road operations.

    Eric Holmes with the City of Toronto told The Weather Network that the city has 40,000 to 50,000 tonnes readily available for this winter.

    While the Don Valley Parkway may turn into a parking lot, it won't become a skating rink this winter. 


    Landscapers, contractors and any privatized service that clears ice and snow, may be impacted.

    Many of these companies have been forced to outsource their salt from Egypt.

    "The boat is on its way," David Lammers, president of Garden Grove said. "It has taken a ton of organization and logistics, but we planned ahead and now we have options."

    This was the most cost-effective method for gathering salt in the private world this season. However, companies who buy salt in bulk can expect prices to rise as much as 60 per cent this season.

    On the contrary, buying just a single bag is not expected to hurt your wallet anymore than it has in previous winters. This type of salt goes through a different process and supply chain. Therefore, the prices are not expected to increase.

    Snowplow dump truck spreading road salt -- Getty Images

    With a scarce supply confirmed for the private sector this could be the time to rethink how we use salt. Lammers told The Weather Network how his company, Garden Grove, is doing so:

    Treated Salt: adding Magnesium to our salt increases the melting ability at lower temperatures. It also provides a residual lasting effect for the surface during the snow event.

    Liquid technology: applying a salt brine blend to surfaces, which is called anti-icing and pretreatment. 

    Better salting equipment: salt use should be calibrated. Garden Grove calculates the output and does not apply more salt than they need to, which reduces unnecessary usage/eliminates waste.

    Better plowing equipment: Adding plows and pushers for loaders and tractors that have advanced scraping ability for better clean up. Leaving less residual snow and hard pack, which reduces the amount of salt needed to help clean surfaces. Better plowing/cleaner plowing equals less salting.


    As Ontario scrambles to make better use of the supply, where does the rest of Canada sit?

    The Maritimes and Quebec have enough supply, and out west the mine in Saskatchewan is doing fine. The dwindling supply of salt is just a story for Ontario and surrounding states. 

    So why can't the rest of Canada just share the wealth?

    Saskatchewan is an expensive alternative due to the cost of running the salt by rail car. It needs to land, be emptied at the rail yard, and moved to storage. The costs to perform this become prohibitive. 

    So, when it comes to money, it looks like Egypt is more cost-efficient. Shipment from Chile and Morocco are also occurring. These international buys usually include storage at ports in the winter, making the deal a little more appealing. 

    This year a perfect storm has hit. The availability of bulk salt has already been an issue for years. The previous winter/spring and current issues at the mines have brought us to this point. And the ripple effect is expected to be felt for years to come. 

  • 17 Oct 2018 7:44 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Photo provided by Mark Upton A ship carrying 13,000 tons of salt for distribution around the Copper Country this winter is seen heading around the bend Sunday toward the Mattila Rock & Dock in Hancock.

    HANCOCK — In the Copper Country, early signs of winter include migratory birds, falling leaves and — the arrival of the salt boat.

    Now that the salt has arrived, it will be trucked around to western Upper Peninsula municipalities and used on roads during the winter months. The trucking was set to begin Tuesday.

    The next shipment is tentatively expected on Oct. 25, although dock owner Dave Mattila noted the current shipment’s anticipated arrival was changed multiple times.

    The salt was delayed, he suspected, in part due to the strike earlier this year at the Goderich salt mine out of Ontario, Canada, where the salt is mined.

    Salt will go to Iron, Alger, Baraga, Chippewa, Delta, Dickson, Gogebic and Houghton counties.

    Of the total, 1,650 tons of road salt will go to the Houghton Road Commission. From there, the salt is mixed into the stamp sands used on the road.

    The mixture ends up being between 3-5 percent salt, said Houghton County Engineer Kevin Harju.

    The mixture is not only a cost-saving measure, because using straight salt can cause issues if not applied carefully.

    “The ice and snow will melt and then refreeze, especially below 20 degrees,” Harju said.

    With the commission usually hauling 10,500 cubic yards a year to supply itself and sell to nearby municipalities.

    The sands are removed from a barrow pit and should last about three to five years before a new source is needed.

    The sands have been tested and approved for use by the state Department of Environmental Quality.

    “The stamp sand that we use have never been chemically treated,” Harju said. “The Department of Environmental Quality has checked it numerous times and not found any chemicals that could be hazardous to the residents by any means.”

    The angular nature of stamp sands makes it work particularly well for traction on roads, he said.

  • 11 Oct 2018 10:32 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)—-and-the-month-has-just-begun/ar-BBOerJR?ocid=spartanntp

    Calgary has marked another weather milestone. As of Oct. 10, this October will go down as the snowiest on record with 48.2 centimetres of snow. The old record was 47.5 centimetres of snow in October 1961, according to Environment Canada’s historical records.

    Early season snow blanketed the city at the beginning of the month, with snow falling six out of the first 10 days in October this year.

    Calgary will normally see 10 centimetres of snow throughout the entire month of October. By Oct. 3, 2018, the city had nearly quadrupled that amount.

    A number of snowfall records were set this month: the record of 4.6 centimetres for Oct. 2 was crushed when 32.8 centimetres fell; that snowfall total marked the snowiest single day ever in the month of October; and the record for measurement of snow on the ground was also beaten for a number of days thanks to that system.

    October is typically the least snowiest month between fall and summer. The only months that see less snow than October are June, July, August and September.

    Cold arctic air has been a major factor in the unusual snowfall this year as it has met up with warmer Pacific moisture.

    Early season systems do have the potential to bring high snowfall accumulations because the temperature is still warm enough to produce heavy, wet snow.

    Calgarians are keenly aware of how unusual the weather has been this fall. Daytime highs have been below seasonal for the past two weeks, with some daytime highs below the average overnight low.

    Temperatures are expected to gradually warm up over the next week with daytime highs forecast to get closer to seasonal after the weekend.

  • 03 Oct 2018 1:00 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Winter’s probably the last thing you want to think about, but you may want to consider stocking up on bags of salt for your driveway and walkways as soon as possible.

    There’s going to be a serious road salt shortage in Ontario and the eastern United States this winter.

    Salt producers are allocating scare resources to municipalities first, but private contractors are scrambling to find supplies and higher prices are “inevitable,” according to Landscape Ontario Horticultural Trades Association, which is raising the red flag to its members about the scarcity.

    The Region of York and the region’s nine municipalities will have adequate supplies to salt regional and local roads, Peter Pilateris, the region’s manager of roads operations, said.

    But contractors will be hard-pressed to get their hands on salt for private properties such at parking lots at shopping centres, workplaces, government buildings, public transit stations, hospitals, police stations and fire halls.

    In fact, the industry-wide shortage is expected to be so severe, Terry Nicholson and Brent Giles have resorted to ordering a shipment of salt from Egypt to meet their customers’ needs.

    Nicholson is vice-president of Markham-based Clintar Landscape Management, Canada’s largest snow removal contractor. Giles is the company’s director of operations and corporate training.

    Clintar, along with a few other contractors, has purchased 48,000 tonnes of salt from Egypt, which is now being loaded on a ship and will reach here in four to six weeks.

    It will be distributed to the buyers in southern Ontario and Cleveland.

    Nicholson and Giles were anxious that the salt be shipped by Thanksgiving to ensure it arrived here in time for winter.

    It takes weeks for an ocean liner to make it to Montreal, where the supply is split into lake vessels to make it through the canals to the Great Lakes to be distributed to the contractors.

    Clintar’s Markham franchise only has two storms worth of salt at a nearby Scarborough depot to service local customers.

    “There’s only so much salt we can get. There’s a point where we can’t get anymore,” Nicholson said.

    “The government takes care of roads. That’s it. Every other piece of asphalt is taken care by contractors. Contractors use more salt than the roads departments would use because there is more asphalt and we hold all the liability. So, we have to salt them because if people slip and fall and get hurt, we get sued.”

    A “triple whammy” has led to the drastic salt shortage, Giles said.

    An excessive winter in some locations, followed by ice storms last April depleted reserves.

    Meanwhile, of the three salt mines that serve the Great Lakes Basin, a huge area including Ontario, Illinois, Michigan, New York and Ohio, which consumes thousands of tonnes of road salt a year, the one in Goderich endured an 11-week strike that ended in July and the one in Cleveland is flooded.

    “We don’t know (how much salt will be available for contractors), but when two of the three suppliers are saying zero, we’re starting behind the eight ball,” Nicholson said.  

    Giles called the shortage “a huge deal.”

    “If our industry contractors are being cut off and not allowed to put salt down, it obviously becomes a safety hazard or safety concern for all the shopping malls and hospitals and plazas that we service,” he said.

    “It could potentially become ice-covered, we could have some serious issues. It becomes a health and safety concern, a public safety concern.”

    For customers lucky to have contractors who secure salt, they will be facing a significant increase in cost, Giles said.

    Meanwhile, desperate contractors may resort to buying bagged salt from stores, meaning residents will have a difficult time finding salt for their driveways and walkways, he said.

    Adding to contractors’ headaches, customers refuse to allow them to use sand instead of salt because they complain its gets tracked into carpets and clogs up catch basins, Nicholson said.

    While contractors are stressed about the lack of salt, the environment is poised to benefit.

    “Winter road salt, which contains chloride, has become an environmental issue of great concern in this watershed and beyond,” according to the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority.

    “In short, we're applying too much, chloride concentrations are steadily increasing and it's having negative environmental consequences. Our monitoring activities have identified a disturbing increase in salt in our rivers and streams and Lake Simcoe itself.

    Chloride is highly soluble, meaning once it dissolves in water, there’s no way of getting it out of lakes and rivers, the authority said.

     “And our plants and animals are accustomed to fresh water. So, the increasing salt concentrations are hurting them,” its website said.

    “So, we need to address the issue by trying to reduce the amount of salt we use since it's really our only option. If we don't, salt is poised to overtake phosphorus as the biggest issue in the watershed.”

  • 16 Sep 2018 8:22 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    They say not to cry over spilled milk, but this year it might be worth crying over salt.

    Landscape and snow removal companies across Ontario and the eastern U.S. are scrambling to meet their stocks for winter amidst a shortage of road grade rock salt.

    The salt shortage is the result of a strike over the summer involving workers at the Goderich Salt Mine, the world’s largest mine producing road salt.

    “If there’s a salt shortage like we experienced last winter, we go to more sand,” said Dick Spear, superintendent of public works at the town of Halton Hills.

    He said that by the end of last winter, the municipality was contacting Sifto on an almost daily basis because they had no salt left. “It was really scary for a while there.”

    The ice rain that pummeled southern Ontario in the spring depleted salt stocks across the province, affecting even large municipalities like the City of Toronto.  

     “It was an anomaly last year,” said Spear, talking about last year’s shortage, noting that he’s spoken with the supplier.

    Spear said that labour issues with the mine have been sorted out at Compass Minerals in Goderich, as well as the necessary mining upgrades that spurred the strike in the first place.

    Depleted stocks at other mines are also contributing factors.

    Producers are allocating supplies to municipalities first, then allowing sales to general market.

    Spear says that the town has confirmed an adequate supply of salt for the upcoming season.

     The Halton Region has the required amount of salt from their supplier for the winter and says the price has not been impacted by the shortage.

    As municipalities take precedence over private contractors, both the town and the region are not imminently concerned about a shortage of salt, or a rise in prices.

    However, Landscape Ontario says a price hike in salt for private contractors in inevitable in this situation.

    The town of Halton Hills has a set contract with their salt supplier that will last until the 2021-2022 season.

    Landscape Ontario is taking steps to mitigate the effects of the shortage, according to the organization, private contractors will have difficultly securing enough salt for the winter.

  • 11 Sep 2018 8:57 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    General Motors Canada is recalling 18,285 vehicles because certain parts of the power steering system could erode and break.

    Affected vehicles include the Cadillac ATS from the model years 2013 through 2016, the Cadillac CTS from 2014 through 2016 and the Chevrolet Camaro from model years 2016 and 2017.

    The recall is focused on vehicles originally sold or currently registered in areas of Canada where road salt is heavily used during the winter months. Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador are the provinces in which the vehicles were purchased or registered, Transport Canada says on its website.

    The bolts that attach the electric power steering assist motor to the steering gear housing may corrode and break. This could cause a loss of power steering assist. The resulting increase in steering effort could create the risk of a crash causing injury and/or damage to property, the safety agency warns.

    Neither Transport Canada or GM Canada said they are aware of any crashes or injuries.

    Dealers will replace the mounting bolts and apply a corrosion protection coating to the gear housing and bolts. If the bolts bolt cannot be removed, a replacement steering gear will be installed.

  • 10 Sep 2018 8:55 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Anyone living in a snowbelt state, where pothole dodging has become a survival skill, realizes we have serious issues with our roads and bridges.

    And what the public is becoming increasingly aware of is that winter maintenance salting is largely the cause. Less obvious, but of equal concern, is the escalating damage winter salting is having on water resources and the ecosystems they support.

    Beyond someone’s individual concerns with road conditions and environmental contamination, this is a problem that truly affects everyone. In fact, current estimates place the cost to taxpayers at a minimum of $1,800 per ton of salt spread to repair the damage caused by winter salting. Multiply that by the 20 million tons of road salt used annually in the U.S. (a number that is rapidly increasing) and it is clear that this trend, if left unchecked, will continue to deliver sizable economic consequences, not to mention the environmental impacts that can lead to wide-ranging public health concerns.

    Troubling data

    Over the past decade, the impacts from road salt use have been the subject of many nationwide studies, including those published by The Cary Institute, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USGS, Clear Roads, and the University of Montana’s Western Transportation Institute. Among the findings of these studies is that chloride levels in urban-affected inland lakes and rivers have more than doubled in two decades across the snowbelt.


    Monitoring states are already reporting significant disruption in the balance of critical ecosystems resulting from these elevated chloride levels. This has come in the form of increased algae blooms, the growing presence of invasive species and fish kill-off. In several U.S. states as well as the Ontario region of Canada, officials are finding well water that has become irrevocably compromised and warn that cities with aging infrastructures that pull their drinking water from inland sources are at risk of similar circumstances to what was seen in Flint, Mich., if system upgrades are not made and salting practices continue on their current paths.

    Taking action

    As a result of these environmental concerns, the issue of road salt use is increasingly on the radar of public officials and starting to drive initiatives and regulations nationwide. For instance, in Chicago there is a mandate to reduce the chlorides entering the Chicago Area Waterways System (CAWS) and to enforce the Illinois EPA Water Criteria for chlorides year-round. This will require a broad regional partnership of municipalities, industry and the public to implement sustainable salt best-management practices. A coalition of this nature is currently underway in the Lake George Watershed in New York to reduce road salt impacts and protect its $2 billion tourist industry.


    Other programs, like Wisconsin Salt Wise, Vermont Better Roads, Ontario’s Smart About Salt and Minnesota’s Winter Maintenance Assessment tool (WMAt), seek to teach sustainable salt best-management practices, not only to municipal and commercial service providers, but also the public that uses their services. In New Hampshire, the approach has been to pass legislation offering liability protection to service providers who obtain Green SnowPro Certification, whereas in other areas of the country winter maintenance operations are increasingly facing fines for the improper storage and application of road salt.


    Though many assume highway and road maintenance to be the major cause, the fact is the greatest uptick in salt usage has been for the servicing of parking lots, which now accounts for more than 50% of the salt loading to the environment. In 2016, this finding prompted the Snow and Ice Management Association (SIMA) to adopt sustainability as a core value and to caution its members to anticipate regulation.


    Brine time

    The current industry atmosphere has created a conundrum for winter maintenance providers. On the one hand, there is increased public pressure to protect the environment, but there also is increasing demand for better road safety—the one requires less road salt use and the other ostensibly requires more. This leaves winter maintenance service providers caught in the middle, with plenty of need for their services, and plenty of potential liability for providing them. Fortunately, the answer may not be that complicated.


    The use of liquid snow and ice control materials (i.e., salt brine) can mitigate these risks by preserving optimal surface driving conditions, but with less cost and significantly less salt than traditional deicing methods. Because less salt is used, liquids are less damaging to infrastructure and the environment, as well as being a more sustainable solution for budget-strapped municipalities and commercial businesses trying to turn a profit. Liquids also are very versatile, with the ability to be effectively used before, during and after a winter event.


    Furthermore, liquids utilize much more precise material application systems that substantially reduce the amount of material that is broadcast, plowed or blown off the target surface into surrounding storm drains or green spaces. And because liquids dry on the surface, unlike granular salt and sand left behind after spreading, their use results in much less labor/cost for cleanup.


    Anti-icing is an industry game changing best-management practice focused on prevention instead of reaction. This approach can be employed at any point in the order of operations, as long as bonded ice/hard pack is not present. Prior to a winter event, anti-icing involves a light direct liquid application (DLA) of brine (30 to 50 gal/lm) to the pavement surface. This can be done days prior to the event, as long as rain is not expected. After the application, the brine settles into the pores of the surface and dries. What remains is a protective barrier of fine salt that insulates the pavement and prevents the formation of ice. If anti-icing measures are properly executed, and plowing measures properly timed, plowing will be much more effective. Because of this, anti-icing has been demonstrated to preserve optimal pavement conditions and maintain greater surface friction longer than traditional salting/sanding.


    Anti-icing can be likened to the benefits of preventive medicine. There is hard evidence supporting that investing money to keep patients healthy is substantially more cost-effective (and profitable) than trying to make them better after they are already sick. A similar premise exists with anti-icing. Pretreating the driving surface with brine before a storm keeps it free of bonded ice, which is safer and more cost-effective than trying to remove bonded ice/hard pack after it has formed. Put into numbers, studies have shown, and field data confirms, that preventive anti-icing utilizes as little as one-fourth of the material and one-tenth of the overall cost (labor, equipment and material) of traditional deicing.


    Another tactic is post-treating with liquids to extend anti-icing efforts. This can be an effective alternative to spreading granular salt when conditions warrant, preventive measures have been successful, or a minimal amount of unbonded precipitation exists on the surface. Utilizing slightly higher application rates than for pretreating, DLA post treatment is simple and cost-effective. Clear Roads has conducted nationwide field research on During Storm DLA (September 2010) and Liquid-only Plow Routes (June 2018) highlighting the benefits of post treatment. Both studies are available on the Clear Roads website:


    Deicing with pre-wet granular salt

    If it is not possible to stay ahead of the storm and deicing is required, brine can still be an effective tool. Spreading granular salt that is pre-wet with brine (8 to 20 gal/ton) as it is applied to the pavement or using salt slurry spreader technology (60 to 90 gal/ton) significantly outperforms dry salting on many levels. Pre-wetting is an ideal entry point when getting into liquid applications, requiring little change to operations and minimal equipment investment.


    In the 10-15 minutes following application to the surface, 80% of the melting action of pre-wet salt is coming from the brine liquid. During that time, the dry material is jumpstarted and brining faster to accelerate results. In addition to providing substantially faster melting action, pre-wetting also helps keep salt on the driving surface. According to the Michigan DOT’s 2012 Bounce and Scatter study, pre-wetting keeps 30% more salt on the intended surface.

    The best brine

    DLA for deicing bonded ice or hardpack is not a widely practiced or recommended tactic. Though expert practitioners have ventured into this approach, DLA for deicing purposes requires significant experience using liquids and the use of tactics/equipment capable of penetrating ice/hard pack and forcing the brine down to the driving surface. Caution is recommended before engaging in this approach because without the proper knowledge and equipment, one could create a greater hazard than already exists—effectively turning a slippery road into an ice rink.


    The best type of brine is entirely dependent on the unique needs of the user. However, according to the Salt Institute, salt brine is the most environmentally safe and cost-effective choice at pavement temperatures above 15°F. And, for a majority of the winter season throughout the snowbelt, pavement temperatures remain on average above that threshold.


    When low temperature performance is required, the more costly calcium and magnesium chloride brines, as well as proprietary products that use these materials as a base, are often preferred. Agricultural byproducts are additives that can enhance brine performance. According to studies by Pacific Northwest Snowfighters (PNS) and Clear Roads, while these additives alone do not demonstrate significant melting properties, they can help brine adhere to the pavement longer, providing a greater residual effect, and they also can reduce the corrosive impact of brine on mild steel. Some agricultural additives also have been demonstrated to enable the brine to work at lower temperatures by inhibiting the brine’s freeze point.


    Commercial service providers in Minnesota and Illinois have reported achieving desired results for their zero tolerance accounts at pavement temperatures below 0°F by blending salt brine with calcium/ag byproducts at up to 30% of the mixture. Many state DOTs and municipal highway departments likewise report achieving optimal road safety performance results at low temperatures utilizing such blends.


    There is no one answer to the type, timing and amount of brine to use. For each agency or service provider, the best choice depends on a host of variables, including typical winter conditions in the area, supply availability, material costs, volume needs, storage capacity, performance goals and operator experience.


    While liquid strategies are nothing new and have been used by highway departments for a couple decades, they have failed to achieve widespread recognition in the industry until relatively recently—mainly due to the low cost and ready availability of salt. But things are changing. Volatility in the supply and cost of salt has severely constrained winter maintenance providers in recent years. Turning salt into brine provides sustainable, cost-effective solutions that can substantially reduce salt usage—and do so while optimizing highway safety and mitigating the damaging impacts of salt on infrastructure and the environment in ways traditional methods of deicing cannot. Simply put, liquids are irreplaceable tools for the salt-smart snowfighter.

  • 31 Aug 2018 6:00 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Increasingly it appears that for 2018 there may be serious salt inventory shortages.  The reasons for this inventory shortage include:

    ·        A late season ice storm in the spring of 2018 depleted much of the salt inventory;

    ·        The Compass Minerals mine in Goderich, Ontario (the worlds largest salt supplier) experienced an elevent week strike this summer (Please see This has seriously affected the amount of salt available for shipping and stockpiling in Ontario and other areas.  Salt is typically stockpiled during the summer months.   It is impossible to replenish the stockpiles before winter;

    ·        Another major producer, Cargill, is having difficulty with maintaining supply because of a water leak in their Cleveland mine.    Please see:;

    ·        Municipalities are ordering more salt due to liability concerns and to deal with increasing inclement weather events which may be due to a warming climate; and,

    ·        Municipalities are often given priority over private contractors because of contractual obligations.

    Many winter maintenance contractors and suppliers have been notified that there would be little or no supply from traditional sources.  As a result, suppliers are sourcing salt from all over the world.  However, transportation costs are higher and logistics are complex. The global procurement process for salt is full of risk as it relates to quality, cost and logistics.   Not surprisingly a reduced supply and increased demand is causing a great deal of insecurity and uncertainty. Undoubtedly a substantial price increase is anticipated in the price of salt.

    Industry professionals are considering contingency plans to address the challenges surrounding the projected salt shortage. Beyond applying leading practices in winter maintenance as taught through Smart About Salt Council’s (SASC’s) “Essentials of Salt Management” course (available in class and online) some ideas include the following:

    ·        Work with suppliers to secure salt as soon as possible.  This likely means that winter maintenance contractors will have to pre-pay for salt and find areas to stock pile the product in an environmentally responsible manner;

    ·        Develop a menu of service levels:  Not all properties require the same service level.  In some cases, contractors may be able to close off/restrict access to certain areas, this could reduce salt considerably; and,

    ·        Contractors are encouraged to consider using segmented ploughs, using treated salt when available, pre-wetting salt, enhanced training, calibration of equipment, locating snow piles judicially etc.  We will do all we can to manage the situation.  

    For more information about the volunteer-led, not-for-profit Smart About Salt Council (SASC) and our collaborative programs please visit


  • 25 Jul 2018 6:54 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    The Saskatchewan farming family that owns the land where salt water leaked from a Husky Energy line says the company is "underplaying" the damage.

    Ken and Nick Wourms have released aerial photos that show yellowed trees and vegetation in what appears to be the path of the leak, which spilled salt water last Wednesday into the Englishman River, about 500 metres from the leak site near Turtleford, Sask.

    Husky spokesperson Mel Duvall said in a response to emailed questions that the company does not know how much water leaked, adding that testing has not detected any hydrocarbon or salinity contamination in the Englishman River. He said Husky did not mention any damage to farmland in its initial statement on the leak because "some impact to vegetation was to be expected."

    "In the early stages we were working to get an assessment of impacted areas," said Duvall.

    But Ken said the impact to his land is significant.

    "We have 90-foot [30-metre], 50-year-old trees that are dead … we've got a whole grove of them gone," he said.

    "That's some of the most pristine, native, untouched, undisturbed prairie wood and natural landscape in northwestern Saskatchewan."

    He's also concerned about potential contamination of the land by uncleaned equipment Husky has brought onto the farm property. 

    "They're driving over it wherever they want, I've got no releases for them to [excavate] anything and at the end of the day they're underplaying what's going on out there."

    Duvall said the company is aware that Wourms is concerned about the impact to his land and said "that is completely understandable."

    "We've had a good relationship and we will continue to work closely with him on the remediation work," said Duvall in an email.

    The company said it had started removing top soil that was contaminated by the salt water but it has halted all excavation at the request of the family, who also urged Husky not to remove any dead trees.  

    Husky said the water is being tested to determine a full chemical breakdown, but the results are not yet available. It said salt water was responsible for the death of the vegetation.

    Ken plans to hire an independent soil specialist to analyze how deep the salt has penetrated.

    His son Nick, who is in the process of taking over the farm, took aerial photos of the site with a drone he uses for crop monitoring.

    He said part of the affected area is canola crop, while the area closest to the river is natural prairie grassland that his family has left untouched.

    "It's a big concern, especially with me trying to take over the family farm," said Nick.

    "My parents [are passing] it to the next generation which is me. My whole lifetime I'm going to have to deal with this stuff."

    Both Nick and Ken fear the salt water has penetrated the ground deeply and will have a lasting impact on soil quality.

    For them, they said salt water is worse than oil.

    Two years ago, a Husky pipeline near Maidstone, Sask. leaked about 225,000 litres of oil, about 40 per cent of which leaked into the North Saskatchewan River.

    "Oil is one thing, and I mean, it's a problem, but it stays on the surface," said Nick.

    "Whereas salt water leaches into the ground and it goes really deep."

    Duvall said in an email Husky does not know how deep into the soil the water has leaked, adding that soil from affected areas will be removed and replaced.

    "Testing is underway on the soil," said Duvall.

    "Our initial focus was on testing the river water and putting measures in place to prevent further drainage into the river." 

    The Wourms family said Husky should have notified them of their plan before removing soil and bringing equipment onto their property.

    They said the company was unable to answer their questions about how the equipment was cleaned to ensure there was no possibility of contamination. Husky said it has asked the companies that own the equipment to provide that information.  

    "We grow a lot of canola on our farm and if even a little speck of the spore of clubroot is in the soil — our farmland that's worth $12 million now could be worth two in a matter of a couple of years," said Nick.

    "We try to take care with cleaning our equipment, steaming our equipment, bleaching it and they ran in with all this excavation equipment without asking us and it was covered in mud, it wasn't cleaned properly."

    The leaking line was used to transport saline water brought to surface during the production of oil. It runs between a water handling facility and a disposal well west of Turtleford.

    The treated water was on its way to being disposed of before the leak, which happened about 500 metres west of the Englishman River. The line has since been shut down but the precise location of the breach is still not known.

    Although the leak was discovered Wednesday, Husky said it does not know when it started.

    Nick and Ken believe it could have started about three weeks ago, having noticed their spraying machine sank into the field.

    "I just assumed it was wet in the area because of all the rains we'd been having," he said.

    The leak occurred in the Rural Municipality of Frenchman Butte near Turtleford, which has a population just under 500 people, and is located 207 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.

    Husky Energy said there are no reports of wildlife being affected.

  • 24 Jul 2018 7:01 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    An Island man says a chemical used to minimize dust on dirt roads during the summer months does a number on his vehicle and leaves him paying more for car maintenance every year.

    The province applies magnesium chloride — a form of salt — as a dust suppressant on dirt roads Island-wide. But Merrill Gillis, who lives on unpaved Gillis Road, said the chemical is corrosive and harmful to everything from his brakes to the body of his vehicle.

    "The problem is when you get your car cleaned for the summer … one drive on the road, it destroys that," he said. 

    "You basically end up getting the undercoating done twice a year to try and fight this."

    He said the chemical doesn't just add to the maintenance of his car, but his dog has trouble walking on it. He said it's hard on the paws of any animals walking on the road and questioned its impact on nearby rivers and streams.

    A spokesperson with P.E.I.'s Department of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy said magnesium chloride is used in many sectors and has been demonstrated to be environmentally friendly. In a statement, the department also said the chemical is less corrosive than calcium chloride, another dust suppressant.

    Gillis said dealing with salt on roads in the winter is bad enough, and that he'd like to get a break from it in the summer months.

    He wants the province find a different solution to the dust problem or allow residents to choose whether or not they'd like the substance applied to their road.

    And he'd like to see more discussion of the issue. 

    "People should know what it's costing them, in terms of vehicle maintenance and other issues," Gillis said.

    "I think that if they knew what the damage they were enduring with this or paying for they would be dead set against it."

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