Edmonton councillors can’t make decision on ‘salty’ calcium chloride issue

Edmonton city councillors to take more time deciding what to do about calcium chloride concerns
WATCH ABOVE: It seems Edmonton city councillors need more time to decide what to do about a controversial anti-icing agent being used on city roads. Julia Wong explains.

On Tuesday, the contentious topic of calcium chloride returned to city hall. Mayor Don Iveson knew the discussion would be heated. He welcomed fellow councillors to the meeting by saying it would be a “salty one.”

Despite an hours-long debate at city hall, councillors are still no closer to figuring out whether calcium chloride will be used again on city roadways.

The issue, and a decision on whether to use it this coming winter, was postponed to next Tuesday morning.

READ MORE: Lawsuit filed against City of Edmonton over its use of calcium chloride

The decision to postpone the debate came after hours of back and forth between councillors and administration. Issues such as Vision Zero, cost savings and infrastructure impacts were discussed.

Several questions about a Global News investigation showing a sample of the brine exceeded the city’s drainage bylaws were also asked.

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READ MORE: Global News Investigates: Test reveals calcium chloride exceeds Edmonton bylaws; councillors not briefed

On Monday, Global News reported that a lab test of calcium chloride reveals the anti-icing agent exceeded stormwater and combined sewer bylaws set by the City of Edmonton. The information, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, is raising questions about possible environmental impacts as well as why this information was not made available to councillors.

Watch below (Sept. 23): On Tuesday, Edmonton city councillors are set to discuss the controversial calcium chloride anti-icing program and then make a decision about its future. But as Julia Wong explains, some important information has not been shared with them.

Test reveals calcium chloride exceeds Edmonton bylaws; councillors not briefed
Test reveals calcium chloride exceeds Edmonton bylaws; councillors not briefed

An email sent Nov. 29, 2018 from an EPCOR environmental manager to the city includes validated laboratory results for a sample of calcium chloride taken from an application tank.

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READ MORE: City of Edmonton says what calcium chloride may do to your vehicle is your responsibility

“The material that is applied exceeds the bylaw limits in a number of categories,” writes the environmental manager.

“It is high in nutrients ammonia and phosphorus, high in BOD [biological oxygen demand] and COD [chemical oxygen demand], high on multiple metals and has a pH below the lower allowable limit. Ammonia also exceeds the waste control regulation limit, classifying this as a hazardous waste.”

On Tuesday, deputy city manager Gord Cebryk said parts of the story were inaccurate but did not explain which parts and provided no further details. Cebryk said the brine would be diluted before it reached city drains, a response Global News reported on Monday.

Councillor Tim Cartmell still had concerns even after hearing Cebryk’s response.

“I have not heard anything about what distinct and definitive process is used to dilute that solution to acceptable levels that comply with the bylaw,” he said. “Failing that, we should not be pouring this on our streets and into our storm sewers.

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“Where’s the test that proves that? Show me how we dilute that product and we get to something that is safe and meets our bylaws. I don’t have that information today.”

Cartmell said there are concerns about the data that is provided to councillors.

“That data is not consistent. It’s contradictory. It’s incomplete,” he said. “Then we get data from private citizens who offer other data points, offer other information and then when you lay on top of that that we don’t get all of the reports, we don’t get complete reports.

“Then we start diving into the weeds. That’s what you’re seeing today quite frankly.”

Cartmell urged councillors to stop what he called “the detrimental practice.” He said he wanted the city to move on from using this solution on roads and to look at alternative solutions that would “better preserve our public and private infrastructure while keeping our roads safe.”

He brought forward a motion to stop using calcium chloride altogether.

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Administration recommended Tuesday that the city continuing the calcium chloride pilot program.

READ MORE: City wants to keep using calcium chloride on Edmonton roads; chemical engineer disputes reports

Cebryk told councillors the calcium chloride solution was only used on roads twice last year.

Concerns were raised about the impact of calcium chloride on vehicles and other infrastructure, like concrete parking pads and roads.

READ MORE: Chemical engineer pleads with city to stop using calcium chloride on Edmonton roads

Cebryk told council on Tuesday that the goal is safety and “bare pavement” is the safest option. He cited city-backed studies showing fewer collisions and no apparent impact to river water quality.

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“Every tool comes with unintended impacts,” he added.

Cebryk said, without anti-icers, there’s no way to get to bare pavement.

A large part of the debate focused on public trust or distrust of city hall when it came to this program.

“I think we’ve lost confidence from some of the public,” Councillor Bev Esslinger said, adding she wants to feel confident that the impacts on environment and infrastructure were considered.

City administration said those things were considered but that monitoring needs to be done either way.

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Watch below: Calcium chloride was under the microscope at Edmonton city hall Tuesday, where Councillor Tim Cartmell called for an end to using the de-icing solution in spite of administration insisting it’s safe. Kendra Slugoski shared the latest on the debate during Global News at Noon.

City councillor calls on Edmonton to stop using calcium chloride on roads
City councillor calls on Edmonton to stop using calcium chloride on roads

Catrin Owen, deputy city manager of communications, suggested that if the city were to continue using calcium chloride, it distribute fact-based information.

Owen said the debate over calcium chloride has been emotional and she said the city needs to stop talking about it then move on.

Those comments rubbed Cartmell the wrong way.

“Quite frankly, the instruction or the advice to stop talking about this when my constituents want to talk about this is not helpful,” he said.

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“I talk about primarily what my constituents want to talk about. If they want to talk about salt, we talk about salt… for me to come out and say I don’t want to talk about that, that’s not ever going to happen.”