A controversial snow and ice clearing chemical will be used on Edmonton’s major roadways again this winter.

Since the calcium chloride pilot project began in 2016, motorists have been concerned about the potential damage the brine could have on vehicles, namely from corrosion.

“The residents of my ward are not in favour of calcium chloride, and I haven’t seen any scientific evidence that says it does everything it claims to do in Edmonton,” Councillor Aaron Paquette said Wednesday.

“People are claiming that they’re seeing a lot of impact on their driveways, on their vehicles, and if that’s the case and we’re getting a lot of that data, maybe we should be taking the time to research that and find out.”

For the last three winters, the city has experimented with various mixes of sand, salt and calcium chloride brine to keep streets clear of snow and ice.

The goal is to keep pavement as bare as possible, as studies show that provides the safest driving conditions. Safer conditions would help meet the city’s Vision Zero goal of no deaths or serious injuries on Edmonton roads.

A report going to the Community and Public Services Committee next Wednesday provides a breakdown of this past winter’s efforts.

The report finds the city’s Fleet and Facility Services “did not observe any major impacts on trucks or shop floors” from calcium chloride, “possibly due to regular washing and maintenance.”

Other CaCl concerns

The report also addresses environmental concerns about the de-icing brine. It found “no apparent impact” on the quality of storm water that makes its way to the North Saskatchewan River.

It mentions calcium chloride can have a negative impact on vegetation growth, but notes the same can be said of sand and salt.

“Whatever we do will have an impact, unless that is doing nothing, and I have not heard from Edmontonians that they do not want us to do nothing,” Councillor Sarah Hamilton said.

 “Whether we’re using sand, whether we’re using calcium chloride or whether we’re using salt or any other solution, it will have a trade-off.”

A full environmental review on the pilot is expected this fall.

Pilot project continues this winter

The City plans to continue the calcium chloride pilot project this winter, but with a new focus.

Staff heard from Edmontonians who were fed up with the state of residential streets in the winter. Fire, police and paramedics told the City they were concerned about the poor conditions of residential roads and sidewalks “which affected their response times.”

The strategy this season is to focus on better residential clearing, along with reevaluating the seasonal parking ban system to possibly include a ‘tag and tow’ component.

The full report will go back to the committee in August.  At that point, councillors will decide on the future of the program.