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Edmonton’s calcium chloride program will likely be put on hold for this winter

WATCH: With winter just around the corner, city council is debating whether or not to renew the city's controversial calcium chloride de-icing program. But as Julia Wong explains, the final decision was put off again on Tuesday.

Calcium chloride, a controversial anti-icing agent, most likely won’t be used on Edmonton roads this winter.

On Tuesday, Councillor Andrew Knack put forward an amendment to discontinue the use of calcium chloride on city roads for the 2019-2020 winter season and for administration to report back in June 2020 on how to achieve bare pavement without using the controversial solution.

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

His motion passed in a close vote of seven to six. But when an amended version of the motion was voted on, there was some confusion and a re-vote was required. The re-vote was postponed to next Tuesday.

However, Mayor Don Iveson said there’s a possibility councillors could change their mind — and their vote — between Tuesday and next week.

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“When this comes back and everyone votes the way I believe they intended, yes, there would be no calcium chloride use for this winter,” Knack said.

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“We would continue to allow the use of sodium chloride this winter and then, next summer, we would have a full report and analysis on replacing those solutions with mechanical means, more plows on the street, and getting a costing and overall impact of that.”

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

The solution was used on local roads just twice last year as part of a pilot project — far less than the year before.

If this vote goes through without anyone changing their mind, the methods that would be used on city streets this winter would include salt, sand, plowing and grading.

“At least this examines other options,” Councillor Tim Cartmell said, “but it still continues the use of solid salt and that’s a problem.”

Last week, councillors had to postpone debate on the so-called “salty” issue after hours of discussion didn’t result in a decision.

Watch below (Sept. 23): 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
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To begin Tuesday morning’s meeting, Iveson asked if administration had any new information for council. Deputy city manager Gord Cebryk said a high-level cost estimate was done for obtaining bare pavement on Edmonton winter roads through only mechanical means (without using an anti-icing solution). He said it would be about $37 million annually.

“The reduced use of anti-icing will require the use of more plows and the preliminary estimate for that is $37 million, which is roughly a 2.2 per cent property tax increase,” Iveson said.

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“If that was the cost, what’s the cost that we were pushing on in terms of the chemical solutions to road infrastructure?” Knack added, saying he would like a broader look at the numbers.

City staff said the solution has improved the safety of Edmonton roads by getting to bare pavement. But councillors said they’ve been bombarded by complaints from people who say the solution is destroying concrete driveways and rusting out vehicles. The city said it would continue to monitor calcium chloride and its effects.

“My fear was any little blip of rust on somebody’s car in the coming years, any erosion or corrosion on cement or asphalt, would be blamed on this policy and we’d get nothing back but, ‘See, I told you,'” Councillor Scott McKeen said.

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Both councillors Bev Esslinger and Aaron Paquette brought up the issue of public trust.

Esslinger said damage has been done to the city’s reputation as a result of this issue. Paquette said residents don’t have a lot of faith in this substance and there’s a need to reset and take a look with fresh eyes. Paquette said even though the solution is used in other cities and by the province, the trust in Edmonton has been eroded.

Councillor Moe Banga said he trusts administration but, at the end of the day, he represents constituents and they don’t want calcium chloride used.

Watch below (Aug. 22): There were several new reports at Edmonton city hall Thursday examining the effects of calcium chloride on roads. Administration wants to continue using the controversial anti-icing agent but as Julia Wong reports, push back isn’t going away.

Reports examine effects of calcium chloride on Edmonton roads
Reports examine effects of calcium chloride on Edmonton roads

In the past, concerns have been made about the impact the solution could have on vehicles, roads and other infrastructure.

Concerns are being raised about the possible negative impacts of calcium chloride on garages, concrete and other infrastructure in Edmonton.
Concerns are being raised about the possible negative impacts of calcium chloride on garages, concrete and other infrastructure in Edmonton. File/Global News
Concerns are being raised about the negative impacts of calcium chloride on vehicles.
Concerns are being raised about the negative impacts of calcium chloride on vehicles. File/ Global News
Concerns are being raised about the possible negative impacts of anti-icing solution, calcium chloride, in Edmonton.
Concerns are being raised about the possible negative impacts of anti-icing solution, calcium chloride, in Edmonton. File/Global News

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

Last week, a Global News investigation also revealed calcium chloride exceeded stormwater and combined sewer bylaws set by the city.

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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.

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

Some of the back and forth debate centred on finding a balance — or weighing the benefits and risks — between the city’s goal of bare pavement for winter driving and the possible negative impacts the solution might have on infrastructure, vehicles and the environment.

“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,” a Nov. 29, 2018 email from an EPCOR environmental manager to the city read.

However, Cebryk said the brine would be diluted before it reached city drains.

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

Cartmell still expressed concerns last week.

“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 on Sept. 24. “Failing that, we should not be pouring this on our streets and into our storm sewers.”

Watch below (Sept. 24): Edmonton’s snow and ice removal program continues to be up for debate. At issue: the use of a calcium chloride solution and it seems councillors need more time to make a decision. Julia Wong has more from city hall.

No decision on calcium chloride use on Edmonton roads
No decision on calcium chloride use on Edmonton roads
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