GUELPH POLITICAST #362 – A-Salt on the Water

The weather has been pretty good reminding us this past week that winter is dangerous, especially when driving on snowy icy streets. That’s why we salt, but the evidence is building that we salt our roads too much and it’s had a profoundly negative impact on our rivers and streams. So are we sacrificing our water quality for winter road safety, and is there a way that we can have both?

It was about two years ago that a study was released in the journal Facets that found levels of salt in rivers and streams exceeded federal exposure guidelines in 89 per cent of samples from four different watersheds in the greater Toronto area, and that one-third of the studied sites showed that one-quarter of all species are impacted. The real concerning part though was these sample were taken in the proverbial dog days of summer, late July and August.

If salt levels are hitting dangerous levels in summer, what must they look like in the winter with all the winter maintenance? Or what happens in a winter like this, where we get a winter storm, lay down salt, and then watch it wash away with a rise in temperatures, melting and then rain before starting the process all over again? Lauren Lawson, who’s an ecologist, conservation scientist and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Toronto, will try and answer those questions.

Lawson joins us on this week’s podcast to talk about our history with road salt, why high salt levels are so dangerous to waterways and animal life, and why it’s so dangerous to human beings as well. She will also discuss why the salt levels are so surprisingly high in the summer, and whether or not the damage to the environment is reversible. And finally, she will talk about best salt management practices, and how Lawson made this problem her academic life’s work.

So let’s talk about things getting too salty out there on this week’s Guelph Politicast!

You can watch a webinar Lawson hosted for Watershed Canada here, plus you can check out this info sheet with facts and information about proper and sustainable use of road salt. You can also find the City of Guelph’s own salt management plan on the City’s website, and you can follow Lawson on Twitter and through her website.

The host for the Guelph Politicast is Podbean. Find more episodes of the Politicast here, or download them on your favourite podcast app at Apple, StitcherGoogle, TuneIn and Spotify .

Also, when you subscribe to the Guelph Politicast channel and you will also get an episode of Open Sources Guelph every Monday, and an episode of End Credits every Friday.

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