Mike Walters, the chief executive officer of the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, has said that in 60 years Lake Simcoe could become toxic from over-salting if something isn’t done soon.
Walters was addressing council at their committee of whole meeting about the work being done by the conservation authority to reduce the damaging use of salt during the winter months across Ontario.
Walters began by presenting to council an overview of what the authority is doing and plans to do with its $21 million dollar budget, some of which comes from citizens in Kawartha Lakes.
“We want this to be open and transparent,” Walters said.
He then went on to detail the priorities of the conservation authority, which include water risk management and restoration, flood management and warnings, and climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Walters suggested the best way to combat climate change “is to grow more forests and wetlands.”
“Salt reduction strategies are also a key to improving the environment,” Walters stated.
The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority has been in talks with the Ministry of the Environment and the attorney general regarding the authority’s “Smart about Salt” initiative.
The authority believes that “smart salt application,” particularly by commercial contractors, is a key to limiting the environmental damage caused by over-salting.
“The problem that commercial users face is the fear of litigation if there is a slip and fall,” Walters told council, “and therefore there is the almost universal overuse of salt to avoid legal action.”
Walters suggested that most commercial users do not apply the proper amount of salt, erring on the side of using too much regardless of the environmental damage it does.
In an earlier interview with reporters in Bradford was when Walters issued a stark warning regarding salt contamination stating that Lake Simcoe could become toxic soon.
With this real threat in mind, the conservation authority has gotten the attorney general involved to see if commercial users who follow the proper application techniques can be better protected from nuisance lawsuits that drive up their costs and have caused a number of companies to leave the business.
“Reducing manure and sediment run off into lakes and rivers is another real priority,” Walters added, “and the authority has just completed a major pilot project at a large swine operation in Brock Township that we are hoping to replicate in other places.”
A quarter of the authority’s total budget is dedicated exclusively to projects that improve and restore the Lake Simcoe watershed for all users.
Councillor Emmet Yeo, the Kawartha Lakes representative on the conservation authority, praised Walters “as a great leader.”
Councillor Patrick O’Reilly wanted more information about the commercial application of salt at plazas.
“The Ministry of the Environment is onside with what we are proposing,” Walters said, “and Landscape Ontario, the umbrella group representing commercial appliers, has said that their liability is now so high that private contractors are hard pressed to get insurance.”