The municipality owns approximately 46 pieces of street-clearing equipment, including loaders, snow blowers, tandems, 5-tonne and 3-tonne trucks. The fleet is supplemented by hourly contractors including salt trucks, plows and loaders - bringing the total count to approximately 250 pieces of equipment engaged during a winter event, depending on weather conditions.
In addition to the street equipment, the municipality owns 10 skid steers and mini-loaders, which are used to plow approximately 100 kilometres of sidewalks. The other approximately 900 kilometres of sidewalks in the region are cleared by contractors. As with the street equipment, the municipal sidewalk fleet is supplemented by hourly contractors and equipment on retainer, including an additional four to eight sidewalk machines that can be brought in for heavier snow.
As part of the municipality’s salt management strategy, a proactive approach is taken to help prevent the buildup of snow and ice during a weather event. This is done by preparing the streets in advance with rock salt, brine or a mixture of the two. There are three municipal salt domes in the region.
The amount of salt and sand applied on the roads varies year to year, depending on the weather. An average of $1.7 million a year is spent on salt, with another $120,000 spent on sand. The municipal salt supply is regularly renewed throughout the season with loads from Canadian Salt Co. Ltd., in Pugwash.
Less snow and ice on the roads means safer conditions for residents and it enables snow-clearing crews to do their work faster and more efficiently when a storm hits.
Direct liquid application (DLA) is one of several tools in the municipality’s overall salt management strategy that involves spraying the streets with a salt water solution, also known as brine. This minimizes the bond that forms between the surface of the road and snow or ice, similar to using cooking spray to prevent food from sticking to the pan. This practice also enhances public safety while reducing the environmental impact due to less sodium chloride being required to create liquid brine. It also stays on the road surface instead of bouncing or blowing off into the ditches and/ or curbs, which is what typically occurs when only applying dry rock salt.
These preventative methods only work in certain conditions. For example, rock salt won’t melt ice in extremely cold temperatures. Crews evaluate the weather forecast and choose the best method to prepare streets for snow and ice to maintain clear, safe roadways throughout a weather event.