Road salt threat to plants and animals

Road salt are toxic to the environment and are seeping into the groundwater in very large amounts. That's the finding of a five year study by Environment Canada.

The report says road salt is a risk to animals and plants as well as groundwater.

Approximately 5 million tonnes of road salt is used in Canada to prevent icy streets in the winter and dusty streets in the summer.

Road salt doesn't pose a health threat to people. But salt that gets into roadside wells will make drinking water taste salty.

The study found plants that are sensitive to salt are dying when they're near roadways that are salted. The loss of plants can affect wildlife and ecosystems.

Many birds are directly exposed to road salt when they eat snow in the winter. Ingesting the salt can cause behavioral problems or be fatal.

Environment Canada is looking at several ways to reduce the amount of road salt.

  • Dilute the snow before it melts into the groundwater
  • Introduce new technology to keep roads safe.
  • Reduce the amount of ferrocyanides (an anti-caking agent) in road salts.

Canadians have 60 days to comment on this report.

The federal government has two years to come up with plans to reduce the amount of road salt on our roads. It will then have 18 months to implement the plan.