Environment and Climate Change Canada is expressing concerns over the ecological damage caused by road salt in Canada. According to a report by Blacklock’s Reporter, federal researchers believe that road salt poses a greater environmental threat than fracking, despite the fact that Ontario and Québec use tons of it each year.
The department report acknowledges that salt application for de-icing purposes has been a major source of contamination, and there is still room for improvement. While road salt was added to the Environment Department’s priority substance list in 1995, it was not labeled as toxic. However, research conducted in 2001 concluded that salt does pose a risk to various ecosystems and groundwater.
The majority of the 4.9 million tonnes of road salt used in Canada each year are used in Ontario. The department finds it difficult to evaluate the quantity of road salt used in the country due to the lack of usage data from Québec. The last figures available from Québec, which date back to 2017, indicate an annual salt usage of 1.5 million tonnes in the province.
The report highlights Canada as the largest consumer of salt in the world, primarily due to the demand for road salt in winter conditions. Approximately 90 to 95 percent of Canada’s salt consumption is used for de-icing and chemical production.
One of the concerning aspects mentioned in the report is the lack of comprehensive studies on chloride concentrations across Canada. Many recent studies in North American freshwater ecosystems have shown increasing chloride concentrations. In 2001, the government of Canada published an assessment report on the impacts of road salts, which concluded that the excessive use of road salts was raising chloride levels in both ground and surface waters, leading to adverse effects on the environment.
The report emphasizes that the implementation of best practices in road salt management is crucial to protect the environment from its negative impacts. Different regions require varying salt application techniques, making it essential to find region-specific solutions.
Researchers have criticized Canadian municipalities for their excessive use of road salt, suggesting that it is often driven by the expectation of bare pavement and sidewalks throughout winter, without proper consideration for public safety or environmental damage.
In addition to road salt, the report points out that several everyday chemicals, including farm fertilizers, pose more significant hazards to the environment than shale gas fracking. A 2013 report obtained by the Department of Natural Resources states that surface activities like municipal landfills, industrial waste disposal sites, and runoff from road salt, fertilizers, and pesticides pose the largest risks to groundwater.
Contrary to the environmental concerns surrounding road salt and other chemicals, the report reassures that hydraulic fracturing with Canadian technologies and regulatory requirements has not had significant negative environmental impacts.
The government Road Salts report serves as a five-year review of the progress made through the implementation of the “Code of Practice for the Environmental Management of Road Salts, 2014 to 2019.” This report highlights the need for further efforts to manage road salt usage and prevent ecological damage in Canada.