New Great Lakes data maps highlight urgent need to reduce impact of record-setting
salt levels on freshwater species and ecosystems
Toronto, June 19, 2019 – Southern Ontario waterways are showing dangerously increasing
road salt levels in WWF-Canada's Great Lakes Chloride Summer Hot Spot Map.
Although road salt – sodium chloride, calcium chloride and magnesium chloride –
keeps public areas safe during icy winters, it is a critical threat to the health
of Ontario's freshwater and wildlife.
More than 7 million tonnes of road salt are used in Canada each winter by public
road agencies alone. Road salt use by the private sector and small towns is not
currently tracked or controlled in Ontario.
Road salt's chloride component is toxic to species and ecosystems year-round. The
runoff from winter applications is affecting the creek and river habitats for species
like fish, frogs and mussels – where these chloride levels endanger their survival
during spawning season in the spring and summer months.
The Summer Hot Spot maps reveal many urban and rural waterways in southern Ontario
– including the Greater Toronto Area, Stratford, Barrie and Kitchener-Waterloo –
are showing record high chloride levels. Some are even as salty as the ocean.
WWF-Canada's maps will help inform policy recommendations to the Ontario government.
These include establishing a Provincial Water Quality Objective (PWQO) to address
species-at-risk susceptible to chloride levels; regulating road salt application,
including mandated training and certification; and developing liability benefits
for public and private holders that track and record evidence for maintaining public
safety and environmental health.
The Summer Hot Spot maps is based on data collected during the summer months (May-October)
and allows users to compare chloride levels from 2007-2011 and 2012-2016. Researchers
can also look up specific addresses to learn about threat levels in nearby bodies
of water using the public map: https://arcg.is/iPqT0
Elizabeth Hendriks, vice-president of freshwater says:
"While healthy levels for aquatic life should be less than 120 mg/L, our maps show
some areas in southern Ontario currently have levels greater than 1000 mg/L year-round.
Ontario is over salting its parking lots, sidewalks, and roadways. A small pill
bottle or salt shaker is all that's needed to melt the equivalent of a city sidewalk
About World Wildlife Fund Canada
WWF-Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most for
Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important, so that
nature, wildlife and people thrive together. Because we are all wildlife. For more
information, visit wwf.ca.