Edmonton councillors to debate snow-removal program after Global News investigation

Click to play video: 'Councillors will now debate Edmonton calcium chloride program' Councillors will now debate Edmonton calcium chloride program
After a Global News investigation into a city memo about the effects of Edmonton's de-icing calcium chloride solution, the issue will now be debated at council next week. Julia Wong reports – Jan 15, 2019

The City of Edmonton is taking action following a Global News investigation into a previously undisclosed city memo about calcium chloride.

Late Tuesday afternoon, a city spokesperson told Global News that the city’s snow and ice program will be discussed at a council meeting on Jan. 22. The program includes the calcium chloride pilot project.

PART 1 OF OUR INVESTIGATION: Newly uncovered City of Edmonton memo raises questions about impacts of calcium chloride

The development comes after two stories published by Global News outlined not only that the city was aware of calcium chloride’s detrimental effects on asphalt and concrete, but also that the four-page memo was not provided to city council.

Now, with the issue being added to the council agenda, frustrated councillors may get some answers.

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PART 2 OF OUR INVESTIGATION: Edmonton councillor seeks inquiry after calcium chloride memo fails to reach city council

Councillor Scott McKeen, who reviewed the memo, previously said he plans to make an inquiry as to why city administration did not share it with councillors.

The memo is dated June 11, 2018. There were discussions in the summer and fall of 2018 regarding the future of the calcium chloride pilot program. The de-icing program was ultimately adopted for a second year.

READ MORE: Councillors debate Edmonton’s calcium chloride snow removal pilot: ‘nothing is perfect’

Mayor Don Iveson gave a measured response when asked about how council was not given the memo.

“I think city administration spoke at a high level about that there are impacts to infrastructure,” he said.

“If there are continuing questions about that, obviously that needs to be aired. That needs to be discussed to council’s satisfaction if that happens.”

Iveson was then asked whether he had concerns that the memo was seemingly held back from council.

“I can’t speak to that. We were given general summary information. Council’s often given high-level information and administration felt that trade-offs, with respect to infrastructure, pavement and asphalt conditions, were reasonable,” he said.

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“Council often receives a lot of summary information rather than all of the backup information, so this is not uncommon — we wouldn’t see every report generated.”

The memo outlines research conducted by the city showing the use of calcium chloride brine created degradation that was “roughly 20 per cent more detrimental than salt-exposed” samples. It also found that calcium chloride-soaked samples had 12 per cent deeper ruts and had 1.5 times the mass loss of sodium chloride-soaked samples. The general conclusion that calcium chloride is detrimental to pavement degradation aligns with findings Global News heard from three engineering experts in Canada and the U.S.

The city had spoken to the media in November 2018 and said the impacts to infrastructure from calcium chloride were “minimal.” Another media event in December 2018 saw a spokesperson mention research was being done, but the conclusions of the memo were not divulged.

When asked for an explanation as to why the information known in June 2018 was not shared with the public, Janet Tecklenborg — director of infrastructure operations with the City of Edmonton — reiterated how the use of calcium chloride was still a pilot project and the study done by the city, which was done in a lab, needed to be put into context.

In response to the Global News investigation, Iveson said that council knew there were trade-offs with the calcium chloride program.

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“That’s why we’re doing a pilot and studying all along the way what the corrosion impacts are and the pavement impacts are,” Iveson said.

“I think it’s something we’re going to want to keep an eye on. When the results of the pilot come back, at the very least, we’ll want to discuss what the infrastructure impacts are.

“If that happens when the pilot comes back, then good. If that needs to happen sooner, councillors can bring it forward as well.”

Watch below: Some videos from Global News’ coverage of the use of calcium chloride on Edmonton roads.

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