About 5 million tonnes of road salts are spread on Canadian roads each year to make driving safe during our winters. However, salt is efficient in this purpose only when it remains on the road! When washed away in the ditch and lost to the surrounding environment, not only does salt not achieve road safety but it greatly harms fish habitat and wildlife, pollutes drinking water supplies and damages valuable crops.
Environment Canada has been working with road authorities across the country to develop the Code of Practice for the Environmental Management of Road Salts in order to reduce environmental contamination by road salts while maintaining and, in some cases, improving road safety.
Examples of activities involving road salts:
- Salt storage
- Improper salt storage can spoil well water for rural residents, kill fish in streams or contaminate the soil of nearby properties, potentially decreasing their value.
- Snow disposal
- Snow cleared from roadways contains residue of the salt spread on them. Large quantities of snow dumped into waterways without treatment release significant quantities of salt, which is harmful to fish and aquatic ecosystems.
- Use on roadways
- When wetted before application, salt adheres better to the road and is more likely to remain on the surface, preventing ice from binding to it. This method increases road safety and decreases the possibility of environmental contamination.
Read the case studies about Canadian municipalities' experiences in environmental management of road salts which resulted in cost reductions and improved operations.
Read the Implementation Guide to learn how to implement the Code's recommendations and to prepare a salt management plan.
Explore the links on this page for more information on how the Government of Canada is taking steps to reduce the risk of road salt to the environment, while keeping Canadian roads safe.
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