Cheap Salt Trumps Environment

Tara Wilson Toronto Star

Road salt "burns trees, chokes vegetation, and contaminates soil. It depletes water of oxygen, and is toxic to many fish. Salts also accelerate the corrosion of automobiles, roads, bridges and sidewalks." Yet Toronto dumps 135,000 tonnes of it on the roads each winter. Why? It's cheap. There are alternatives, some made from sugar beets or corn, that are used in New Jersey, Colorado and Ohio, but they can cost up to ten times as much.

All that salt is getting into our creeks and streams, but the City refuses to release data on it, telling the Star that it is still in "raw" form. Environmentalists are appalled. "It's this odd situation where people are expecting to be able to drive 110 km/h [65 mph] on all-season radials, which are not suitable for the road conditions, because they assume enough salt has been laid down to make them safe," says Kevin Mercer, the founder of Toronto-based watershed group Riversides who has studied road salt use in Ontario. "There's a tendency to use salt exclusively. It's ridiculous and it's going to have to change." ::The Star

Tags: Cities | Pollution