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GLIN==> Toronto supports EC report declaring road salt an environmental toxin

Posted on behalf of Kevin Mercer <kmercer@riversides.org>

Today, Toronto Councillor Jane Pitfield will be making a motion at Works
Committee for the City of Toronto to become the first municipality in Canada
to formally endorse Environment Canada's Priority Substances List Assessment
Report declaring road salt an environmental toxin to be regulated under the
Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

A number of community groups will be making deputations in support of this

RiverSides Stewardship Alliance asks that you call or e-mail your local
Councillor, especially if he/she sits on Works Committee, and ask them to
support this motion.

This is especially important given the growing opposition, led by the U.S.
Salt Institute, to Environment Canada's report.  It is feared that
Environment Canada may not list road salt under Schedule 1 of CEPA,
in fewer controls on its use.

Below is a press release issued today, along with background materials,
including a summary of the City's monitoring data from snow dumps across the


Tuesday March 27, 2001
For immediate release

Road Salt Pickling Toronto Rivers

TORONTO: Road salt levels washing off city streets are pickling Toronto
rivers.  City of Toronto data released today show salt levels as high as
35,000 milligrams per litre (mg/L) in some runoff samples.

"The salt levels detected in these river water samples confirm our worst
fears," commented Kevin Mercer, Executive Director of RiverSides Stewardship
Alliance, a Toronto-based environmental group specializing in urban water
pollution issues, "We are literally pickling our rivers with salt."

Toronto uses on average 130,000 metric tonnes of road salt each year.

In August last year, Environment Canada released a draft report identifying
road salt as a toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection
Act (CEPA).  The report cites impacts on plants and aquatic life from
exposure to high salt concentrations.

Rainbow trout are killed after one week's exposure to salt concentrations of
1000 mg/L, and 10% of aquatic organisms are harmed by prolonged exposure to
just 220 mg/L.  Most of the samples taken from Toronto roads this winter
exceed these levels several times over.

On March 27, RiverSides will be calling on the City of Toronto Works and
Emergency Services Committee to endorse the Environment Canada report and
commit to implementing measures to reduce road salt use before the snow
starts falling next winter.

"We recognize that the City has taken some important steps to reduce road
salt use on our streets, but more needs to be done if our rivers are ever
going to be able to support healthy fish populations," said Mercer.

Recently, the City embedded Road Weather Information System sensors into
roadways to provide continuous information on air, surface and sub-surface
temperatures to allow applicators to determine when, where, and how much
salt should be applied.  The City has also launched a training program for
salt truck drivers and invested in computerized controls on salt trucks to
more carefully control application levels.

If the Works and Emergency Services Committee votes to endorse the
Environment Canada report, they will be the first municipality in Canada to
do so.  This is an important step because, according to environmentalists,
the U.S. Salt Institute has been mobilizing to fight Canada's classification
of road salt as an environmental toxin.

"Environment Canada is under increasing pressure to downgrade road salt's
status from an environmental toxic to a controlled substance, a designation
which would result in far fewer controls on its use," commented Burkhard
Mausberg, Executive Director of the Canadian Environmental Defence Fund.
would be a very dangerous precedent if CEPA rules for a substance found to
toxic after a 5-year study by a panel of scientific experts were weakened
purely economic and political reasons, and with no regard to science."

Toronto Councillor Jane Pitfield, a member of the Works and Emergency
Services Committee supports Environment Canada's report.

"My primary concern is the safety of Toronto residents," stated Pitfield,
"There are a number of cost effective control measures that the City can
undertake today that would reduce the use and environmental impacts of road
salt while at the same time keeping our roads and sidewalks safe."

The City began testing road runoff for road salt contamination in December
response to concerns raised by RiverSides and numerous local citizens.  The
tests show the highest salt concentrations, 35,000 milligrams per litre, in
storm sewer outfalls to Mimico Creek near Pearson Airport.  Concentrations
all Toronto rivers rise dramatically as they flow through the City.  The
Humber River showed concentrations of only 141 mg/L north of Highway 7, but
peaked at over 5000 mg/L at Black Creek Road.  There were also high salt
concentrations at the various snow dumps where City plows pile snow gathered
off the streets.  Run-off from the snow dump at Sherway Gardens exhibited
levels of 10,400 mg/L.

                            - END -

RiverSides Stewardship Alliance was founded in September 1995 as a community
collaborative to address the unrecognized issue of urban non-point source
pollution of surface water from sewer system overflows, urban land use, and
lot level maintenance practices in the residential, commercial and
institutional sectors.

For more information:
Kevin Mercer, Executive Director
RiverSides Stewardship Alliance
Phone: (416) 392-1983
Cell: (416) 995-7374



Road Salt Use

* The four most commonly used road salts are Calcium Chloride, Magnesium
Chloride, Sodium Chloride, and Potassium Chloride (all are considered toxic
under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act).

* 5 million metric tonnes of road salt are used each year in Canada, and
under 2 million tonnes in Ontario, at a cost of $50-$65 per tonne.  Ontario
uses more salt than any other province.

* 130,000 metric tonnes used in Toronto.

Environmental Impacts

* Rainbow trout die after one week's exposure to concentrations of 1000 mg/L

* 10% of aquatic organisms are harmed by prolonged exposure to chloride
  concentrations greater than 220 mg/L

* High chloride levels in lakes lead to the release of heavy metals into the
water from suspended sediment.

* Damage to plants has been found as far as 50 metres from treated roadways.

Other Impacts

* High levels in drinking water cause disagreeable taste.  Ontario guideline
for drinking water is 250 mg/L.  There is a lag time between when road salt
enters the environment and when it reaches groundwater.  Based on past use
road salt in southern Ontario, chloride levels in some groundwater sources
will soon reach 400 mg/L.

* United States Environmental Protection Area estimated the annual cost of
salt-related damage to roads, vehicles, bridges and vegetation is 15 times
the cost of purchasing and applying the road salts

Reducing Road Salt Use & Impacts

* Use of alternatives where road run-off is shown to have an immediate
negative impact on surface waters and in all environmentally sensitive

* Electronic controls on spreading equipment to control rate of application.

* Road Weather Information Systems use sensors embedded in the roadway to
  provide continuous information on air, surface and sub-surface
to allow applicators to determine when, where, and how much road salt should
be applied.

* Pavement friction monitoring devices attached to spreading equipment gauge
the 'slipperiness' of roadways.

* Central disposal of waste snow where run-off is controlled and treated to
remove chloride and heavy metal contamination.

* Locate salt stockpiles well away from surface waters and groundwater
sources. Stockpiles should be sheltered under an impervious roof, and
underlain by a plastic liner over a high quality concrete floor with


* Calcium Magnesium Acetate and other acetate-based alternatives exhibit
  environmental impacts, but cost more.

* Urea is less corrosive and has a lower environmental impact than
traditional road salts.

* Sand, where traction is the primary goal such as on sidewalks and
especially near sensitive ecosystems.



Sampling Methodology:
Samples were collected by the City of Toronto, Industrial Waste Water
Branch,Works and Emergency Services between December 7, 2000 and January 30,

Gary Welsh
Transportation Services
Works and Emergency Services
City of Toronto
(416) 396-7842


Humber River
North of Highway 7 (site 83020) --- 50-141 mg/L
Black Creek Road (site 82003) --- 1540-5376 mg/L

Rouge River
North of Highway 7 (site 97009) --- 44-70 mg/L
River Mouth (site 97011) --- 166-434 mg/L

Don River
Steeles and Yonge (site 85003) --- 153-279 mg/
Just north of Bloor (site D.M. 6.0) --- 1250-2247 mg/L

Highland Creek
Creek Mouth (site 94002) --- 843-1755 mg/L

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