Councillors debate Edmonton’s calcium chloride snow removal pilot: ‘nothing is perfect’
Edmonton city council discussed pros and cons to different snow removal options Tuesday, with one councillor calling for an end to the calcium chloride pilot project.
“I haven’t changed my opinion,” Coun. Mike Nickel said. “It’s time to stop.
“Even some city workers have emailed me privately saying this is destroying everything we have.”
Administration told councillors there hasn’t been any impact of using more salt and calcium chloride on Edmonton’s fleet of vehicles. However, councillors have been flooded with complaints of rust and corrosion on citizens’ vehicles.
“We’re using tonnes of salt and that’s what is leading to the damage that people are observing,” Coun. Tim Cartmell said. “It concerns me that we weren’t forthright in saying that to start with. We tended to concentrate on the brine and not the total salt that was used.
“We’re concentrating on the brine solution but, as mentioned, that’s five per cent of our salt in our last year.
“The total amount of salt we used last year is not quite five times what we used two years ago and I think that’s something we need to talk about.”
The director of infrastructure for city operations said Edmonton used about 35,000 tonnes of salt last winter, which is approximately 1.5 times more salt than years prior.
“We were asked by council to use less sand so there’s going to be trade-offs with every snow removal process you use,” Janet Tecklenborg said.
Tecklenborg said if a city’s concrete is properly cured then “there should not be an impact.”
“We need safe roads so how do we get to safe roads?” she said. “We get to bare pavement and that’s really our goal.
“Nothing is perfect but by going to bare pavement, we would like to get to a safe, reliable network with minimal environmental impact.”
A chemist for Tiger Calcium Services told city officials on Tuesday that the calcium chloride solution combined with other factors can lead to damage on vehicles.
Coun. Michael Walters asked Jamie Lawrence: “The combination of sodium chloride and calcium chloride being used as it is, is that conclusively contributing to the destruction or damage to people’s vehicles such as we’re hearing through our email inboxes?”
“It is definitely a mechanism that can contribute to it,” Lawrence replied.
“It can contribute to it?” Walters reiterated.
“Yes,” Lawrence said.
He added it can exacerbate or accelerate other corrosive responses taking place.
Christian Gersdorff, a licensed red seal mechanic, noticed rust appear two years ago on his new 2011 truck.
“I’ve never had a lick of rust on it and in the last two years my rear bumper’s completely corroded.”
Gersdorff appeared before council last week, hoping to warn the city against using this product.
“It’s ridiculous. The fact that they would want to move ahead with this program and expand arteries when they haven’t done the proper testing is insanity.
“They are literally using us as guinea pigs, our property, the infrastructure that we’re then going to have to pay for down the road,” Gersdorff said.
It puts city operations in a bit of a conundrum: can they clear streets in the winter without damaging vehicles?
“Corrosion seems to be the biggest issue,” Mayor Don Iveson said, “but we’ve also heard from the public that it’s safer and they see it as safer.
“There are cost trade-offs to all the different alternatives… Ideally, we should have all the information before we make a decision.”
“This inhibitor, that inhibitor, this chemist, that expert. How do you know?” Cartmell asked. “You need a baseline to start from and we don’t have that.”
The city said it wants to try out a different corrosion inhibitor with the anti-icing program. Lawrence said Tiger Calcium Services has whittled its fail rate down to 10 per cent and it is “best in class.”
Nickel wants to scrap the calcium chloride approach entirely.
“Back to what we had and enhancing the snow service with plows in terms of sidewalks and so on,” he said. “That’s where the money needs to be spent — on basic services, not on vanity projects. That’s where my frustration is.”
Later Tuesday afternoon, councillors voted down Nickel’s motion to stop the pilot project.