road salt toronto

People in Toronto worried for their boots as city starts flooding sidewalks with salt

Toronto is getting real salty, and no, I'm not talking about residents' tendency to complain constantly about everything.

No, I am referring to literal sodium chloride, the crystalline mineral that will crunch beneath your boots, stain the entry to your home and place of work, mess up the environment, and cause discomfort for pet paws for the next six months.

Road and sidewalk salt season has begun, and Toronto is already over it.

The city got its first blast of winter weather this week, and with it, property owners, businesses, and city services got to work right away. And just like in past years, people are out there spreading salt with zero regard for your footwear, pets, the environment or the basic principle of even dispersal.

And it's not just private residences and businesses going heavy on the salt. City services also love to get in on the fun.

Nothing says the dark season like the blooming fractal patterns of evaporated salty slush on a subway floor, and the TTC is doing everything it can to give you the full winter experience, liberally applying salt to the exterior of stations like Sheppard-Yonge.

In a city perpetually lacking the budget for the upkeep of basic public amenities like garbage bins, drinking fountains, and park washrooms, we sure seem to have plenty of cash to spare on towering mountains of road salt.

Though not everyone is going to agree on salt use, the city has at least figured out how to disperse the stuff on sidewalks evenly.

Salt is a proven method of eliminating snow and ice by lowering its melting point, but it only works up to a certain point, as extreme temperatures can render salt useless.

It also has serious environmental ramifications, melting into storm drains and causing untold damage to life in waterways and lakes.

One alternative used in other cold-weather cities is sand, which provides traction in place of melting, and leaves snow removal to heavier equipment like plows and melters.

So if you're reading this and preparing to go dump an entire bag of salt on a small patch of sidewalk in a phoned-in effort to avoid fines, please, think of the pet paws, aquatic creatures, and sneakerheads affected.

Lead photo by

Shawn Micallef

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