Salt use on slippery Mt. A sidewalks

The frigid temperatures of Sackville winters create dangerous conditions for many residents in town and on campus. At Mount Allison, facilities management is responsible for making the campus as accessible as possible during this season.

Director of Facilities Management Neil MacEachern said the staff relies on salt and sand to mitigate the conditions created by ice and snow. MacEachern said Mt. A’s facilities management takes into consideration the environmental impacts of these methods.

“We have not been able to come up with a solution that balances safety to the public, our students, the faculty, the community and damage to the Mt. A campus that is better than salt and sand,” MacEachern said.

Taylor Crosby, a third-year environmental science student, evaluated Mt. A’s grounds policy when she participated in the environmental audit in May 2016. She looked specifically at the use of salt and its environmental effects.

According to a report created by Crosby, “salting is not a favourable method of removing ice, as it erodes pavement and concrete, seeps into soils and waterways and is tracked into buildings, causing mess and damage to flooring. Sanding also damages interior flooring and does not actually melt ice.”

MacEachern said that the usual method of dispersal involves a salt overlay followed by sand. “Depending on the area and temperatures, we will adjust [the method],” he said.

When it comes to the impact of the salt on the surrounding environment, MacEachern said that facilities management is aware there is an impact and does its best to minimize it. “It impacts grass, and that seems to be the biggest impact. We go around and have to do corrections in the spring,” he said.

Crosby’s report addresses both these environmental impacts of salt and sand and alternatives to these methods.

“Many alternatives have been explored for salting, however, they are often expensive and sometimes more damaging to walkways and stone on campus. New alternatives are constantly being explored, although typical rock salt is the most cost-efficient way to ensure safety in the wintertime.”

Another important aspect of winter weather conditions is accessibility, especially for students with a physical disability. “The accessibility based on what we have done so far has been much better than previous years, but what I will say is that it is a continuous battle,” MacEachern said.

Second-year cognitive science student Danielle DuPlessis understands winter accessibility challenges better than most. Having injured her knee playing basketball in October, she now uses crutches to get around on campus. “Winter is a difficult time to be on crutches because of all the ice and snow, so I need to be careful not to re-injure my knee,” DuPlessis said.

“Fortunately, it hasn’t been very snowy, so I haven’t had too much trouble on campus. Snow makes it very difficult to get around,” she continued.

DuPlessis said salt and sanding makes a big difference for her – it adds traction and makes her feel more comfortable getting around the campus.

“We would rather be told we have a problem and we go address it, as opposed to someone calling and saying so-and-so just fell and broke their leg or broke their hand,” MacEachern said. “I think the biggest thing is just that we all have a responsibility for safety.”

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