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Salt management plan FAQ

The City believes in using the right amount of salt or sanding product in the right place and at the right time.

  • When road surface temperatures are between 0 and -10 degrees Celsius, salt is used to melt accumulated snow and ice.
  • When road surfaces are below -5 degrees Celsius, a sanding chip mixture (3% salt, 97% fine gravel) is used.

All sanding trucks are equipped with automatic controls that spread a fixed amount of salt or sanding chip mixture depending on road conditions.

When snow is predicted, a calcium chloride, anti-icing solution is applied to designated roadways around the city. This environmentally-friendly compound helps prevent ice and snow from accumulating on the road during a snowfall.

Frequently asked questions about the road salt management plan:

  1. What are road salts?
  2. Are road salts harmful?
  3. How is The City managing the environmental impact of road salts?
  4. How does The City's Salt Management Plan help the environment?
  5. How much road salt does The City of Calgary use?

1.  What are road salts?

Road salts include sodium chloride (NaCl), calcium chloride (CaCl2), potassium chloride (KCl) and magnesium chloride (MgCl2). The City of Calgary only uses sodium chloride and calcium chloride. Roads salts used for snow and ice control may be solid or liquid brines.

2.  Are road salts harmful?

Health Canada released a report in 2001 that indicates road salts are not harmful to humans. However, a 2001 assessment report by Environment Canada indicates that road salts are entering the environment in amounts large enough to pose a risk to plants, animals, birds, fish, lake and stream ecosystems and groundwater.

As a result of the scientific assessment, Environment Canada recommended adding road salts to Schedule 1 (Priority Substances List) of the Canadian Environment Protection Act (CEPA). This recommendation led Environment Canada to release the Code of Practice for the Environmental Management of Road Salts in 2004. For more information on Environment Canada's Code of Practice, visit Environment Canada and type "road salts" in the search box.

3.  How is The City managing the environmental impact of road salts?

The City of Calgary has a Road Salt Management Plan in accordance with Environment Canada's Code of Practice. The goal of the plan is to improve environmental protection without compromising road safety.

4.  How does The City's Salt Management Plan help the environment?

The City's Salt Management Plan outlines best practices for salt use and storage. For example:

  1. Controls – Electronic controls are used on all of The City’s sanding and salting equipment. These controls are set to deliver precise amounts of sanding and salting product and are calibrated regularly.
  2. Storage – The City has a salt storage depot at 194 Avenue and Macleod Trail South. The storage depot includes two large tents that house road salt and sanding products. The tents protect the salt and sand from exposure to weather conditions by:
    • Preventing wind erosion of road salt products.
    • Preventing stockpile run-off by keeping precipitation off stored products.

    The tents are built on impermeable compacted clay, and asphalt surface. This prevents salt from seeping into the surface drainage water, groundwater and soil beneath the depot. In the unlikely event of salt run-off from the site, The City has also built an emergency containment pond next to the depot.

5.  How much road salt does The City of Calgary use?

The City applies approximately 30,000 to 40,000 tonnes of road salts annually in order to keep Calgary on the move in difficult winter driving conditions.