Code of Practice

The Environmental Management of Road Salts

Preface

On average, 5 million tonnes of road salts are used each year as de-icers on roadways in Canada. Due to concerns about the large quantities of chlorides being released to the environment, road salts underwent a comprehensive five-year scientific assessment under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 beginning in 1995. The road salts assessment covered the chloride salts -- sodium chloride (NaCl), calcium chloride (CaCl2 ), magnesium chloride (MgCl2) and potassium chloride (KCl) -- as well as brines used in road de-icing/anti-icing and dust suppression, the salt portion of abrasive mixtures and ferrocyanide additives.

Road salts enter the environment through losses at salt storage and snow disposal sites and through runoff and splash from roadways. The assessment report, published on December 1, 2001 concluded that high releases of road salts were having an adverse effect on freshwater ecosystems, soil, vegetation and wildlife. The publication of this report initiated the risk management process to address the risks posed to the environment by road salts.

To assist Environment Canada with this complex task, a multistakeholder working group was formed, which included members from provincial and municipal road authorities, federal and provincial governments, industry, environmental non-governmental organizations and related associations (see the list of working group members at the end of this Code). This working group worked together over a two-year period towards the development of the Code of Practice.

The Transportation Association of Canada worked in parallel to the working group to produce the Syntheses of Best Practices. The syntheses are a detailed resource on winter maintenance practices and supplement the recommendations made within the Code.

The main objective of the Code of Practice is to ensure environmental protection while maintaining roadway safety. There are two main recommendations in this Code:

  1. The development of salt management plans, based on a review of existing road maintenance operations, identification of means and goal-setting to achieve reductions of the negative impacts of salt releases; and
  2. The implementation of best management practices in the areas of salt application, salt storage and snow disposal, as outlined in the Transportation Association of Canada’s Syntheses of Best Practices.

Monitoring and reporting aspects are also included in the Code. The information collected will play an essential role in evaluating the progress achieved.

This Code of Practice does not address the use of road salts on parking lots and private properties, use as dust suppressants or use of ferrocyanide additives. These applications are being addressed separately by Environment Canada.

When applied, the recommendations made within this Code will result not only in benefits to the environment, but will also have the potential to result in benefits to road authorities, including more efficient operations, improved roadway safety and savings in material usage. Since the beginning of the assessment process, many road authorities across Canada have taken early actions to improve their salt management practices. Case studies documenting the resultant benefits of these practices, as well as other related information on road salts management, can be found on this site.

Interpretation

  1. The following definitions apply in this Code:

    "organization" means:

    (a) any public entity that uses or that is responsible for the use of road salts on public roads in Canada; or

    (b) any company that holds a concession or lease to manage a public road, unless the public entity from which the company holds that concession or lease has developed a salt management plan that the company agrees to implement.

    "road salts" mean road salts that contain inorganic chloride salts with or without ferrocyanide salts.

    "TAC Syntheses of Best Practices" means the Syntheses of Best Practices -- Road Salt Management appended to the Salt Management Guide published by the Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) in 1999, ISBN 1-55187-136-X, and updated in September 2003, as amended from time to time.

    "vulnerable area" means an area particularly sensitive to road salts where additional salt management measures may be necessary to mitigate the environmental effects of road salts in that area; vulnerable areas should be identified as per the guidance provided in Annex B of the Code.

  2. Recommendations in this Code propose preventive or control actions aimed at the environmental management of road salts to protect the Canadian environment.

  3. This Code does not replace nor supersede any laws or regulations adopted by federal, provincial, territorial or municipal authorities in relation to, among other things, environmental protection, road safety or use of road salts.

  4. This Code is not the sole guidance available to users of road salts in Canada, and is intended to be used in conjunction with the Salt Management Guide and Syntheses of Best Practices developed by the Transportation Association of Canada and any federal, provincial, territorial or municipal maintenance standards. Nothing in this Code should be construed as a recommendation to take action to the detriment of road safety.

Application

  1. This Code applies to:

    (a) organizations that use more than 500 tonnes of road salts per year (five-year rolling average); and

    (b) organizations that have vulnerable areas in their territory that could be potentially impacted by road salts.

  2. This Code does not apply to road salts used for domestic purposes, or for private or institutional uses.

Salt Management Plan

  1. An organization that meets the criteria of section 5 should prepare and implement a salt management plan that contains best management practices to protect the environment from the negative impacts of road salts. The management plan should cover all activities which may result in release of road salts to the environment, such as salt storage, application of salts on roads, and disposal of snow containing road salts.

  2. An organization that does not meet the criteria of section 5 should consider implementing the best management practices that are relevant to its local conditions in order to protect the environment from the negative impacts of road salts.

  3. The salt management plan should:

    • provide a statement recognizing the role of a salt management plan in achieving improved environmental protection without compromising road safety;

    • provide a commitment or endorsement of the plan at the highest level in the organization;

    • identify activities or operations through which road salts may be released to the environment and goals to achieve reduction of the negative environmental impacts of these releases;

    • assess current practices against recommended best management practices, including those contained in the TAC Syntheses of Best Practices;

    • contain documentation of all policies and procedures applicable to the salt management plan;

    • include communication activities necessary to inform the organization and the public of the salt management plan and related policies and procedures;

    • contain a training program for all personnel when managing or performing winter maintenance activities involving the use of road salts;

    • provide response procedures to react to uncontrolled releases of road salts that could result in environmental impacts;

    • ensure monitoring of actions to measure the plan’s effectiveness;

    • include record-keeping as described in section 15 of this Code;

    • include a procedure for yearly review of the plan by the organization with continual improvement of salt management practices and the salt management plan as better management practices become known and progress is achieved; and

    • establish and implement corrective actions to address deficiencies identified in the operations of the organization to which the plan applies.

  4. The environmental impact indicators listed in Annex A, the guidance for identifying vulnerable areas provided in Annex B and the data gathering and reporting provisions in Annex C of this Code should be considered during the development and implementation of the salt management plan.

  5. The content and level of detail of the salt management plan may vary according to the organization’s size and capability.

Best Management Practices

  1. It is recommended that best management practices referred to in sections 7 and 8 and found in the TAC Syntheses of Best Practices be selected according to the following objectives:

    • Salt Storage: The objective is the prevention or control of releases from existing and new sites. In pursuing this objective, the following practices should be considered: coverage of salt piles and blended salt-sand piles, handling practices that avoid uncontrolled releases, drainage management, wash water collection and treatment, training of personnel, and monitoring of the effectiveness of the facility.

    • Snow Disposal: The objective is the control of releases from existing and new sites. In pursuing this objective, the following practices should be considered: location and construction of the sites to take into account operational and environmental factors, drainage management, training of personnel and monitoring of the effectiveness of the facility.

    • Salt Application: The objective is the reduction of the negative impacts of road salts by delivering the right amount of road salts in the right place at the right time. In pursuing this objective, consideration should be given to using the most recent advancements in the application of winter maintenance anti-icing and de-icing materials, winter maintenance equipment, and road weather information and other decision support systems. As well, the training of personnel and the monitoring of the effectiveness of road salt application techniques should be considered.

Implementation

  1. An organization that meets the criteria of section 5 should prepare a salt management plan within one year after publication of this Code in the Canada Gazette. It is recommended that implementation of the plan begins in the financial period or fiscal year immediately following the preparation of the plan.

  2. It is recommended that organizations hiring agents or contractors ensure that those agents or contractors comply with any measures in the salt management plan related to their work.

Record-Keeping and Reporting

  1. An organization that meets the criteria of section 5 should:

    1. provide to the Minister of the Environment

      • notification of intent to prepare a salt management plan within 6 months after publication of this Code in the Canada Gazette or within 6 months of becoming subject to this Code, whichever is later; and

      • information specified in Annex C of this Code, in the form provided by the Minister, by June 30 of the year following the year that the organization becomes subject to this Code and every year thereafter;

    2. keep records of all data reported, copies of the salt management plan, plan revisions, training records, and any yearly review reports, including those that contain corrective action;

    3. retain the information referred to in paragraph (b) for seven years; and

    4. make the information referred to in paragraph (b) available to the Minister of the Environment upon request.

Review of Progress and Need for Further Action

  1. In order to monitor the effectiveness of this Code, organizations will be invited to cooperate with the Minister of the Environment in the preparation of progress reports on the development and implementation of salt management plans.

    1. Five years after publication of this Code in the Canada Gazette, organizations will be invited to cooperate with the Minister of the Environment and to participate in an evaluation of progress achieved towards prevention and reduction of the negative impacts of road salts on the environment through the implementation of this Code.
    2. The review will consider the level of implementation of best management practices, such as those found in the TAC Syntheses of Best Practices, the progress accomplished towards preventing or reducing the negative impacts of road salts on the Canadian environment and road safety monitoring data.
    3. This review will help determine if other steps or programs are needed to further prevent or reduce negative impacts of road salts on the environment.
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