Salt, anyone?

Bonnie Learning
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With winter looming, Labrador residents fear what might become of their roadways

The Amélia Desgagnés was in port in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Sept. 22, offloading salt into waiting trucks at the main dock in Terrington Basin. The Department of Transportation and Works say there are no plans to use salt or calcium on roadways in the Upper Lake Melville area this winter season, only on Routes 500 and 510 (west and south).

The snow might not yet be on the ground, but that hasn’t stopped people in the Upper Lake Melville area from starting the discussion regarding the use of salt on the region’s roads and highways for this coming winter.

The Amélia Desgagnés was in port in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Sept. 22, offloading salt into waiting trucks at the main dock in Terrington Basin. It caught the attention of many locals, who took pictures and to social media to express their displeasure at the sight and what it might mean for this year’s driving conditions.

On the Facebook group, “Concerning Happy Valley-Goose Bay,” resident Raymond Godwin summed his feelings up in no uncertain terms, exclaiming, “The GD crap is not needed here!”

Newly elected Happy Valley-Goose Bay Mayor Jamie Snook noted on the same thread,  “with access to so much sand, I don’t understand why this is happening.”

“I don’t recall there being any major safety issues with using sand. Does anyone know what the explanation for it is?”

Godwin replied the same question has been put to government several times.

“Sometimes they deny salt is being used here, other times they have said it as at the request of people from North West River who have to ravel back and forth for work,” commented Godwin.

“I bet if there was a referendum or vote, there would be over 80 per cent against the use of salt!”

Mixture on highways

When contacted by The Labradorian on Monday, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation and Works in St. John’s said they actually receive queries each year when the salt boat arrives in Happy Valley–Goose Bay, adding there have been “no changes” in the winter maintenance program in the Labrador region for “many years.”

“There are no plans to use salt or calcium in Happy Valley-Goose Bay or North West River — or on Route 520 between these communities,” said the spokesperson.

“As in previous years, the department will be using a salt/sand mixture on Route 500 and 510 — traveling west and south of Happy Valley-Goose Bay.”

The spokesperson said the mixture ratio in Labrador is as follows - gravel roads: 5% salt - 95% sand; paved roads: 25% salt - 75% sand.

The spokesperson added salt was used on “one occasion last January” on Route 520 (North West River Road) after heavy rainfall and a flash freeze event. 

“Plow trucks using graders were not able to improve conditions and sand applied was simply blowing off the road and the use of a salt/sand mixture was the only means to improve driving conditions.”

The spokesperson added the application of salt is recognized “as one of the more efficient and effective tools to improve winter highway driving conditions.”

Difference of opinion

Many residents of the community beg to differ with the views of the Department of Transportation and Works.

Dominic Dickmann, is one of the administrators of the Facebook group "Citizens of HV-GB, North West River and Sheshatshiu Against the use of Chemical De-icing products", which was developed last year.

“I don’t believe at all that salt is not going to be used on the roads (in town),” said Dickmann yesterday. “It’s simply not true. Everyone knows that salt has been used on Hamilton River Road and NWR road.”

Dickmann noted there is always a build up of snow on the area roads come winter, but using salt does not equal “safe.”

“The salt causes the snow to melt, yes, but then it causes ruts. Salt doesn’t make the roads safer, quite the opposite — it causes vehicles to go all over the road because of the ruts. You can have the best winter tires on your car, but your car will still slide.”

Dickmann added the town should only allow sand to be used on the roadways in the winter, noting a number of years ago, he recalled heated sand being used on the roads around the Base and some in the valley.

“It would melt the snow and stick there really good, which was great traction for vehicles,” he said.

Dickmann said it might be time to look at a petition to try to get through to the Department of Transportation and Works with regards to how people feel about the use of salt on Labrador roads and highways.

“The people who make these decisions are in the city; they don’t know what its like here in Labrador.”

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Recent comments

  • Gerry
    October 19, 2013 - 12:31

    Hi John, see attached article re deicing salt in Labrador.