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SFU to use less salt on roads

November 5, 2009

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Facilities services has a new plan to significantly reduce the use of salt to clear winter roads at the Burnaby campus in an effort to better protect nearby salmon and trout streams.

The university has also repaired and sealed the pavement surrounding the campus’ road-salt storage shed to prevent salt leaching into adjacent streams, pending emergency B.C. government funding, possibly next year, to build a new facility.

"Our number one priority is to continue to keep the roadways and sidewalks as safe as possible for those who use them," says buildings and grounds superintendent, Frank De Vita.

"But we’re also doing everything we can to use salt only when it’s absolutely necessary."

The new salt-reduction plan includes:

  • Replacing straight salt on roadways with a 50-50 combination of salt and sand.
  • Making greater use of a sprayed salt-brine solution to clear roadways when appropriate, thereby reducing the use of salt by as much as 70 per cent.
  • Applying salt only after road snowplowing to reduce the amount needed.
  • Experimenting with sand alone on some level parking lots.
  • Substituting alternative de-icing and abrasive products in place of salt on campus sidewalks, paths, landings, squares and stairs
  • Training snow and ice operations staff to use salt more judiciously.

SFU committed to moving its salt storage shed last spring after the Stoney Creek Environment Committee produced a report showing high conductivity levels in surface water near the facility.

SFU’s own research confirmed the high readings, which were attributed to salt migration through soil or in runoff water.

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Jonathan Hill

This is a terrific initiative, I'm glad that all of the hard work of the folks down at the Stoney Creek Environment Committee over the last 8 years is finally paying off. As a member of the Stoney Creek Environment Committee, a student of SFU, and a resident of the Burquitlam area who lives very near Stoney Creek, I am extremely happy about the result.

I still have heard no word on my idea to switch to an alternative de-icing product called EcoTraction. I think SFU could pioneer the way into switching to this cheaper, more ecologically friendly alternative. The city of Chicago has used it in complete replacement of road salt.

http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS148983+03-Feb-2009+MW20090203

Road salt is a horrible substance, and has devastating effects:

Contaminates Groundwater

-Salts & ice melters drain their toxins into soils, ponds, rivers and

lakes. This can have crippling effects to freshwater ecosystems, particularly for organisms who live in a very narrow range of tolerances, such as juvenile salmon, trout and their eggs.

Damages Infrastructure and Rusts Cars

-Steel corrodes rapidly after application of road salts, and considerable research has gone into minimizing the use of road salts especially on bridges.

Salts & ice melters are known to damage lawns, landscaping, and trees.

Harms Pets and Children

-Pets ingest large concentrations of these toxins when they lick their

paws, and children can eat the chemically-dyed pellets that look like candy.

Ineffective In Very Cold Conditions

-Road salt starts losing its melting ability below 15 degrees Fahrenheit /

-9 degrees Celsius.

Provides Inconsistent Traction

-Ice melters are not traction agents and can actually reduce traction by

leaving behind a liquid brine solution that refreezes, making roads and

walkways even more slippery than before.

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