Salting the Roads

Ontario Road Salt Management Group LogoDuring the winter months, snow and ice can have a dramatic impact on public safety, roadway capacity, travel time and economic costs. Of these impacts, user safety is the most important priority in winter road maintenance programs.

Halton Region is a member of the Ontario Road Salt Management Group, which was formed in December 2001 to develop best management practices to ensure responsible salt usage.

Road Salt Management Plan

Working in cooperation with the Local Municipalities, a Road Salt Management Plan (Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF)477KB) was developed in 2003 to minimize the amount of salt entering the environment through best management practices and use of new technologies to ensure effective use of salt on the road system. This Management Plan was adopted by Regional Council on August 13, 2003.

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Background

In 2001, Environment Canada released an assessment report stating that road salts are entering the environment in large amounts and are posing a risk to plants, animals, birds, fish, lake and stream ecosystems and groundwater. 

Based on the assessment, Environment Canada is considering declaring road salt to be "toxic" under the Canadian Environment Protection Act (CEPA). The "toxic" designation only means that it is harmful to the environment if used in excessive amounts. Environment Canada has stated that they will not ban road salts, but rather will encourage users to develop their own salt management strategy. It must be noted that Health Canada stated that road salts are not harmful to humans.

Environment Canada had two years, from December 1, 2001, to develop control measures for the use of salt and users had another 18 months to initiate necessary operational changes.

Halton's Road Salt Management Plan was prepared in response to that assessment.

At the same time, the Road Authorities will continue to search out and encourage the use of viable and cost-effective new technologies and chemicals to reduce the environmental impacts of winter maintenance activities.

Research into the use of alternatives is ongoing but road salt continues to be a cost-effective de-icer in winter maintenance programs.

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