Anti-icing formula to hit Edmonton winter streets again this year

Edmonton will continue using anti-icing agents to clear snow and ice from city streets this winter, despite feedback from residents that the formula may be rusting their vehicles.

City council agreed Tuesday to expand a pilot project using calcium chloride and salt on another 295 kilometres of roadway, on top of the initial 2,840 kilometres tested last year.

Coun. Mike Nickel wanted to discontinue the pilot project, and councillors Mo Banga, Jon Dziadyk, Tony Caterina, Tim Cartmell and Aaron Paquette sided with him. 

But the seven other councillors voted for the project to go ahead.

Complaints from residents have filtered to some councillors about rusting concerns, which prompted questions about the corrosive nature of the blend.

Coun. Nickel had made up his mind before discussion began at Tuesday’s council meeting.

“This is destroying everything we have,” he said, paraphrasing feedback from residents, environmentalists and city workers dealing with corrosion on vehicles. 

Nickel is worried about the expense being passed on to residents. He said the city should get back to the basics and do enhanced service with plows.

“That’s where the money needs to be spent, on basic services, not on vanity projects.”

Jamie Lawrence, a chemist who works with Tiger Chloride, told council that calcium chloride is a lot more aggressive for de-icing but they’re working on a new formula that will use an inhibitor — a film that covers metal and helps protect vehicles and other machinery.

Cartmell pointed out the possibility that salt could be the corrosive culprit, noting that the city used 4.8 times more sodium chloride on the streets last winter than five years earlier.

“There is someone that is looking at their car, at their driveway, at their garage pad, at their landscaping, and is attributing the damage that they’re seeing to the brine, is actually potentially seeing damage because we’re using not quite five times as much salt as we were using five years ago.”

Gord Cebryk, deputy manager of city operations, acknowledged the city started using more salt in conjunction with the calcium chloride solution.

“We have been using more salt so the correlation could be made,” he said. 

Cebryk said the point of the pilot is to optimize the use of salt and calcium chloride. “We have to learn how to use it better.”

Salt or sand

Coun. Michael Walters said the original intent was creating safer and cleaner roads.

And he said he’s not a fan of going back to sand.

“One of the other things that was not very attractive was this kind of ‘dirt city’ — we had this three-inch, sludge-sand all over Edmonton all winter, not the pristine white wonderland that I think many of us would prefer.”

Cebryk told councillors there is only a handful of options.

“If we don’t use de-icers, we have to use more sand.”

He said the city could use more snow plows and maintenance trucks but there would still be a residual film on the roads without the use of a product.

Nearly 90 per cent of Canadian municipalities use calcium chloride and salt, council heard.

Several councillors, including Ben Henderson, are convinced the anti-icing blend creates safer driving conditions. 

“The trade-off is … would I prefer to be in an accident or have my vehicle corrode? And I think I prefer the corrosion over the collision.”

Henderson pointed out that winter weather changes every year. In 2017-18, they struggled to deal with a spate of freezing rain.

At upcoming budget deliberations in November, the operations branch will ask council to approve $4.1 million for the program.


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