adding in salt to injury

Over on the Community Focus site Anna has a great post delving into the town’s recent decision to move to increasing its salt application for winter maintenance. I won’t summarize any of her points here as the post is both thorough and tight and deserves to be read in whole here:

The staff report IES15-057 attached to the October 6th General Committee Agenda and was approved at that meeting with none opposed.

You can watch the debate unfold between 17:25 – 31:26 of the video here:

It is curious how the report fails to touch on the negative impact of increasing salt application.

The only councilor who inquired was Clr. Abel, and the response from staff was extremely short, failing to outline a growing set of data ade available to the town and the Region via the Lake Simcoe Regio Conservation Authority.

You know, the outfit Mayor La-de-Dawe sits on.

But he arrived minutes before the item was voted on at 29:20.

Dawe is no stranger to truffle salt ( ) but given his role at the LSRCA he can’t claim to be a stranger to road salt either.

In their 2015 budget the LSRCA listed “Using Science to Inform Management Decisions” under a key accomplishment: Monitored winter road salt application to better model and address urban Chloride loads

Great, so where is the leadership around our council table to use science to inform management decisions?

Where are the reports and models included in report IES15-057 that address urban Chloride loads?

It’s not as if there is a shortage of data spilling forth from the LSRCA on this issue.

Here’s a 4 page Science newsletter they published this January on Sodium Chloride:

The issue is covered in a 2013 Lake Simcoe Region Subwatershed Plans Implementation Report:

An issue of growing concern in the Lake Simcoe watershed is an increase in chloride levels in the lake and its tributaries. LSRCA, MOE and the University of Guelph have entered into a partnership to develop tools for the municipal and private sector to reduce chloride loading. One of these tools is an introduction of the Smart About Salt certification program to the Lake Simcoe watershed.

We then read that the first training was held on November 12th in the Aurora public library, and included 52 participants, representing both contractors and municipal staff.

Fast forward one year and read the same Implementation Report from 2014 and we see the participation in the same workshop dropped by 20 people:

However, we read LSRCA is now in the process of establishing a Salt Working Group, made up of representatives of planning and operations staff from municipalities in the watershed, as well as the conservation authority, academics, and private sector representatives, to share information on road salt issues and progress on action items identified at the workshop.

In 2015 the LSRCA published a 43 page report on “The identification of Salt Vulnerable Areas in the Lake Simcoe watershed”:

If you’re of the belief that this is an issue that does not impact Aurora you need to flip to Figure 16 on page 33 to see the surrounding red zone.

There are a multitude of individual measures of local watercourses to drill into, but I’m going to focus on the recommendations.

On page 39 Aurora was not identified as an Area where the greatest gains could be achieved as a result of improved operations.  That said, Aurora is identified on page 38 as salt vulnerable area.

The south end of Aurora is highlighted on the same page:

Interestingly, communities located on the Oak Ridges Moraine, including Uxbridge and the south end of Aurora have relatively low impacts on aquatic biota associated with winter salt, likely because these communities tend to be in headwaters of watersheds (and thus,chloride has had little time to accumulate), and perhaps because high rates of clean groundwater discharge tends to dilute what chloride is in the system.

Okay, let’s pretend that council’s decision to switch to 100% road salt was informed by all the above data not included in the staff report and it is predicated on some belief that Aurora’s vulnerability is low and that the Oak Ridges Moraine will simply dilute all the road salt we throw at it.

Or is it a matter of economics as laid out in Anna’s post? Because if this boils down to a matter of finding efficiencies perhaps the town should scrutinize their snow clearing contracts, say like the one they had in place to clear the library in 2013/2014:

Just last month I commented on how Barrie was hosed by a snow clearing contractor for what looks to be $2 Million:

I’m not claiming that Aurora is in the same boat, but the cost attached to the increased response time is coming with a $200,000 price tag, as Anna pointed out.

Will this contractor have a Smart Salt certificate suggesting that they will reduce their salt output?

If the York Region Subwatershed Implementation Plan: is any indication I am not optimistic it will make any difference.

Page 22, Sub-theme 3-2: Reducing salt use is one of 3 “high priority recommendations”:

Perhaps more challenging are the issues related to liability should someone be injured as a result of insufficient or inappropriate salt application. The fear of lawsuits tends to make private contractors apply more salt than necessary, and makes government agencies loath to create legal restrictions on salt applications. As such, the reduction of salt application requires a more nuanced approach,

More nuanced then what?

A council with their collective heads in the sand, I mean salt.

Watts on your mind?

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