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Environment

Some southern Ontario waterways now as salty as the ocean, WWF Canada says

View of the salt storage at Toronto Transportation depot at 433 Eastern Ave East in Toronto on May 26, 2019. .
View of the salt storage at Toronto Transportation depot at 433 Eastern Ave East in Toronto on May 26, 2019. . THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Dominic Chan

Environmental advocates say road salt levels in southern Ontario waterways have hit record highs, making some as salty as the ocean.

World Wildlife Fund Canada says its new maps tracking chloride from road salt show levels in many rural and urban southern Ontario waterways are increasing dangerously.

The organization says road salt’s chloride component is toxic to freshwater species and ecosystems.

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It says runoff from winter use is affecting creek and river habitats for species like fish, frogs and mussels, and endangering their survival during the spring and summer spawning season.

The organization says more than seven million tonnes of road salt are used in Canada each winter by public road agencies, while use by small towns and private sector companies is not currently tracked in Ontario.

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It says the maps are based on data collected during the summer months and allow researchers to compare chloride levels over more than a decade.