Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Need for Temporary Fix for Excessive Application of Road Salt in Aurora

It is an observation, but I think that Town of Aurora is applying road salt a little excessively. Salt, in general is a good ingredient that enriches various aspects of our lives; however like everything else, high concentrations of salt can be detrimental to us and the environment, road salt especially for the latter.

Aurora had it’s first signs of snow in late November last year. Every type of winter snow related equipment hit the roads then to tackle the winter conditions and to make walking and driving around Aurora much safer. Interestingly enough it’s been consistent since then, a much better response from the Town than in previous years. That is a good thing. Apparently, another shift of winter services was added to provide reasonable snow clearing services for our Aurora residents, an essential service we pay for through our tax levees every year.

“This is something to not just think about, but to reconsider in the near future.”

However, let’s examine one aspect of the winter service that is not environmentally friendly, that is application of salt on our streets. However, before I reiterate my position on the application of salt in general, let me share some observations related to excess road salt dumped at street stop signs or traffic light crossing areas. I saw it last November and I have seen it recently. As a matter of fact I had to idle my car on top of a pile of bluish coloured road salt a few times when waiting at an intersection for the red light to change. It makes me quiver. A picture of the Flintstones driving a car with rubber-less wheels comes to mind. I know the Flintstones analogy is a stretch and nothing new to you, but in the long run salt has a corroding effect on our vehicles and infrastructure.

The economic impacts of road salt use include corrosion damage to roads, bridges, parking garages, and underground utilities, as well as the costs of implementing corrosion protection measures. Salt corrosion also affects motor vehicles, especially brake linings, frames, and bumpers. When these factors are fully accounted for, the costs of road salt use become considerably larger.Source.

So here I am, I cannot conclude if excessive salt application here in Aurora is related to mechanical capability of the salt truck or inefficiencies in operating the salt truck. Perhaps revisiting the impacts of salt on the environment around us is something to be weighed in the next Town council term but I don’t think reversing to sand at this point can be justified. So in the meantime, it would be interesting to know if the Town can come up with a temporary fix to apply less road salt on our streets this winter season, especially at the crossings.

Now lets look at the bigger picture. A few years ago I wrote, “A great efficiency opportunity for the Town of Aurora. Eventually more road salt on the secondary roads. Less spring cleaning, less sand dust. Less work for public service employees, thus less money spent. Aurora is switching to 100% road salt application and closing the loop on all the secondary roads this winter. Do you think Town Council on your behalf made the right decision approving the change back to 100% salt despite potential environmental concerns? Well let’s analyze it, but for the record I am not in favour of the change to 100% road salt.” Source: Winter Maintenance Efficiency Opportunity, More Road Salt.

Yes switching to 100% road salt application (no more sand) was recommended and approved mostly on the merits of cost savings to the Town (with a trailing lower impact on the municipal taxpayers) outweighing the potential for negative impact on the environment as acknowledged in previous government road salt studies.

Although the side effects of salt have been known for a long time now it appears that some decisions will backfire slowly as expressed in the recent news and not just here at home, “Road salt during winter months taking toll on waterways, U.S. experts warn;The increased salinity of waterways in the north east is putting fish, frogs and microscopic zooplankton at risk.

In my opinion, this is something to not just think about, but to reconsider in the near future.

Anna Lozyk Romeo
Aurora, ON

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