“In clay soils – salt in the structure can degrade the soil structure and once it’s degraded it may take a while to bring back which can hurt the vegetation in the area for a while.”
UBC professor of Land and Water Systems Hans Schreier described how keeping snow in large piles in Montreal contributed to massive amounts of salt heading into water and soil systems all at once.
He said that because Montreal has a climate where many salt cycles are necessary to keep the roads clear, they use more salt than the average Canadian city. By piling their snow into massive piles, he said that they packed a large concentration of salt into one area. When Spring comes around each year, the piles of snow melt and adds a large amount of water with a high concentration of salt to soils and water systems.
“That’s obviously not very good for your vegetation and that’s also not very good if the salt gets into the groundwater.”
Schreier continued to list an example of how road salts have affected the groundwater in Ontario. He said that in a similar way to the problems in Montreal, Ontario’s snow piles melt and the salt water seeps through the soil which mixes with their ground water supply.
Schreier stressed that the salt mixing with the ground water is expensive for the Ontario government to treat the water to remove the salt for people to drink.