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Salt polluting Toronto waterways: environmentalist - CTV Toronto

March 6, 2008
Paul Bliss

An environmentalist wants the city of Toronto to cut back on its salt use because she says the ice-melting pebbles are polluting streams and rivers.

Katrina Miller, of the Toronto Environmental Alliance, says fish are likely dying because of the abundance of salt spilling into area waterways. She wants cleanup crews to stop piling snow near rivers and streams.

Standing beside a giant pile of snow in a park on Eglinton Avenue, Miller says the salt stones falling into Black Creek is an appalling situation.

"As soon as you get a few warm days, all the salt in that snow is going to flow right into that river, and that could cause fish to die," she told CTV Toronto.

Miller predicted water from the creek would even taste salty, like the ocean. She then scooped up a handful of water and tasted it.

"I absolutely taste salt in that water, there's no doubt about it," she said.

The city uses the relatively cheap salt to melt ice on the roads, and Toronto has used much more this year because of the many storms.

Crews have already laid 165,000 tonnes of salt on roads this winter, a significant increase from last year when 120,000 tonnes was used.

And more salt will be used to clean up a storm expected to dump as much as 30 centimetres of snow on Toronto on Friday and Saturday.

Toronto's director of transportation services, Peter Noehammer, admits salt levels in some waterways increase sharply in the winter.

"It doesn't surprise me that there's a bit of a salty taste to the water," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if there are elevated chloride levels next to a snow disposal site like that."

Noehammer said the city is doing its best to keep salt disposal sites away from waterways, but crews have limited room because of the abundance of snow this year.

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