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Final decision on Edmonton’s calcium chloride program expected Tuesday after 2 weeks of delays

A photo taken at an Edmonton City Council meeting on Jan. 22, 2019. Global News

A long-awaited decision on the future of Edmonton’s calcium chloride program is expected on Tuesday, after two weeks of delay on a decision.

Councillors were widely expected to decide last Tuesday whether to use the anti-icing agent again this winter.

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

Council had voted seven to six in favour of stopping calcium chloride use for the 2019-2020 season and asking for a report from administration next summer about how to achieve bare pavement without using the controversial solution.

Councillors Banga, Dziadyk, McKeen, Esslinger, Cartmell, Paquette and Knack voted to discontinue the solution’s use.

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But an error from Councillor Tim Cartmell during the final vote meant a re-vote was required. It was then that Mayor Don Iveson said the vote should be postponed to the following Tuesday.

If Tuesday’s vote goes through without anyone changing their voting intentions from the week prior, the methods that would be used on city streets this winter would include salt, sand, plowing and grading.

“We can’t presuppose what council’s actually going to vote on next Tuesday,” Iveson said on Oct. 1. “Until the final decision is made, I think it’s premature to speculate.

“People have changed their mind within the last week, so anything is possible at this point.”

Councillor Knack had been supportive of the solution’s use when the pilot began, citing how it had been used in other Canadian cities. However, he had a change of heart during the last couple of years.

“We knew all those other cities haven’t really been studying the overall impacts,” Knack said on Oct. 1. “The long-term impacts to, again, infrastructure — private and public infrastructure — part of it was getting that info.”

Knack also credited Councillor Cartmell for bringing up concerns about the use of road salt in general.

“[He] very clearly — through this debate — articulated some of the concerns, not just with calcium chloride, but also with sodium chloride, and hearing those questions come up, I think also started to help shift my thinking.”
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The solution was used on local roads just twice last year as part of a pilot project — far less than the year before.

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

During the last two council meetings, councillors have brought up worries over the solution’s impact on vehicles, roads and other infrastructure along with concerns about the city’s reputation and the erosion of public trust over the issue.

Councillors in favour of using the solution said they support it because they believe it improves road safety.

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

Earlier this year, Global News reported about a memo that failed to reach councillors showing the damage calcium chloride could cause to asphalt and concrete.

Last month, Global News uncovered lab data showing the calcium chloride, and its corrosion inhibitor, exceeded stormwater and combined sewer bylaws set by the city. The information, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, raised questions about possible environmental impacts.

Cartmell said he was not satisfied with comments from administration that the solution would be diluted before it hits the drains.

He said there is no data showing that what enters the drainage system does in fact meet city bylaws.

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“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.”

In a blog post published on his website Monday, Iveson laid out his opinions on calcium chloride “to explain where I sit with the issue and what my main concerns are about the proposal to restrict its use.”

In his post, Iveson said he believes the city will have difficulty reaching maximum bare pavement, which in turn leads to safer streets, without using calcium chloride. He suggested eliminating its use would likely result in “a significant property tax increase” to pay for additional plowing.

The mayor also said the city “can prevent most of the corrosive effects of calcium chloride by adding an inhibitor, which we already do.”

You can read Iveson’s post in its entirety here.

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