January 15, 2012
City of Ottawa takes leadership role in salt reduction
From left, Ottawa Councillor Steve Desroches, Bob Hodgins, Smart about Salt, Tony DiGiovanni, and Dean Karakasis, BOMA, after a successful Smart About Salt Summit.
By Bob Hodgins
Smart about Salt executive director

Terry MurphyThe City of Ottawa hosted a Smart about Salt summit on Nov. 29 to foster greater public and private partnerships in promoting efficient salt use in the city.

Ottawa is working in partnership with local public and private sector organizations, snow removal contractors and other key stakeholders to move forward with salt management best practices as a means of protecting the environment and being fiscally responsible.

“The city is committed to being an environmental leader and steward through the adoption of innovative ways of reducing the amount of rock salt spread over the winter season,” said mayor Jim Watson. “We are pleased to be working in collaboration with other jurisdictions to make smart choices about how and when we use salt to improve safety, while ensuring our actions are in the best interests of our residents and the environment.”

The Smart about Salt Summit brought together public and private sector groups, Landscape Ontario, the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of Ottawa, the Ontario Good Roads Association, and the Smart about Salt Council to discuss best salt management practices and the city’s ongoing work to better manage the use of de-icing chemical on its roads, parking lots and sidewalks.

The event was widely attended with representation from local colleges, universities and school boards, the National Capital Commission, both federal and provincial governments, commercial real estate and the snow removal contracting industry.

“Salt is a necessary tool for keeping our roads and sidewalks clear of ice during the winter, but excessive use of this important resource can lead to negative impacts on our environment,” said Ottawa councillor Steve Desroches, who chaired the summit. “By implementing smart salt practices, we will not only achieve environmental benefits, but also reduce winter maintenance costs and extend the capital life of our infrastructure.”

John Manconi, general manager of Public Works for Ottawa, outlined how the city has significantly optimized its use of salt on winter roads and sidewalks to minimize the effects on the local environment, while still maintaining safety. He explained how the municipality has had many of its internal staff, who maintains city facilities, take the Smart about Salt training. There are plans to pilot the program this year at five city facilities.

“As responsible members of the community, we at BOMA recognize the need to take a leadership role in advocating smart rock salt usage among our members as a means to protect our environment and the people we serve,” said Dean Karakasis, executive director of the BOMA, Ottawa Chapter. “We are pleased to work closely with the city on this worthwhile initiative.” Several BOMA members attended the summit to learn how they can become Smart about Salt.

Tony DiGiovanni, executive director of Landscape Ontario, speaking on behalf of the contracting industry, said, “Landscape Ontario is endorsing the Smart about Salt program for five interconnected reasons.” He outlined those reasons as; the program raises the level of professionalism within our sector; begins the process of encouraging standardization; promotes environmental stewardship; promotes safe operations and risk management; and gives Smart about Salt certified contractors a competitive edge where clients require SAS Accreditation. “The Smart about Salt program raised the professionalism of our industry, and helps us to better manage our risk.”

The risk management benefits were reinforced by Luke Pallister, risk consultant for Marsh Canada, who said, “The Smart about Salt program enables certified companies not only to use less salt, but to manage and mitigate winter related risks. For this reason, the Smart about Salt Winter Salt Management Program is being promoted by Marsh Canada through the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA) HortProtect insurance program.”  In addition, Marsh will provide premium discounts to Smart about Salt certified contractors within the CNLA HortProtect insurance program.

Brian Stratton, of the Mississippi-Rideau Source Water Protection Region, explained the Ontario-wide initiative to protect Ontario’s drinking water from contaminants, including road salts. He explained how his region is developing policies that draw on the Smart about Salt program to help protect vulnerable drinking water sources.

I congratulate the City of Ottawa for its leadership in promoting public safety and environmental stewardship by hosting the Smart about Salt summit, and look forward to working with the city and the many attendees to implement the program.

The Weather Network covered the summit, so keep your eye out for future stories about the program.
You can learn more at smartaboutsalt.com or email Bob Hodgins at smartaboutsalt@bell.net.