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Officials propose new policy on salting city streets

Photo Credit: Heckel

PHOTO: Mike Rorar, Canton public works superintendent, stands outside a city salt dome on 30th Street NE. Rorar says Street Department workers aren't always salting roads properly.
By Matthew Rink staff writer
Released/Published: Dec 12, 2014


Posted Dec. 12, 2014 @ 8:00 am


Too much road salt is seeping into the local aquifers, according to an analysis by the city, prompting officials to take a new approach toward treating ice- and snow-covered streets.

Canton buys more than 10,000 tons of road salt each winter. It stores the salt in three domes at its Service Center, at 2436 30th St. NE, and another at 2506 Cleveland Ave. SW.

Lab reports have detected elevated amounts of chloride at the Northwest Water Field on Guilford Avenue NW and at the Northeast Water Field on 30th Street NE. Water Superintendent Tyler Converse said the levels pose no risk to health or to infrastructure, but the city wants to begin bringing them down.

"At the Northeast well field, one of the main sources or culprits is actually the city of Canton," Converse told City Council this week. "We have our salt dome sitting on top of our aquifer. We're working to mitigate that risk.

"Not only at the Northeast water field, but at the Northwest, where we don't have a salt dome, we're seeing a gradual increase in the amount of chloride in the water, which is salt. That's a concern."


Canton has the second-largest groundwater source in Ohio. It draws water from underground wells that extend hundreds of feet into sand and gravel aquifers. It has spent $25 million in recent years to upgrade its water filtration plants.

Only two of the three aquifers that supply the city's water system have shown increased levels of chloride. The third, located in Sugarcreek, has not.

Converse said that since 1999, the Sugarcreek aquifer has gone from having 25 milligrams of chloride per liter to 40 milligrams per liter today. That's compared to current samplings of 140 milligrams per liter at the Northeast Water Field and 150 milligrams per liter at the Northwest Water Field.

It didn't take long for officials to figure out why.

"If you look at the map, there's a spaghetti bowl of roads," said Public Works Superintendent Mike Rorar, who oversees the patching, paving and plowing operations performed by the Canton Street Department. The salting of those roads - or, in Rorar's estimation, the oversalting - is believed to be the reason for higher levels at the Northwest and Northeast water fields.

There are no regulatory limits on chloride, Converse said, but levels reaching 250 milligrams per liter can affect the taste of water.

Canton is developing a comprehensive source-water protection plan with the help of Westerville, Ohio-based Bennett & Williams Environmental Consultants. The plan, which will be completed next summer, will identify sources of pollutants that can reach the aquifers. The plan will include an outreach program.

"What became obvious is we need to get our own house in order before we potentially ask other businesses to," Converse said.


At the end of the season, Canton plans to close one of three domes at the Canton Service Center. Another dome, near Schroyer Avenue and Ninth Street SW, has reopened after eight years. That dome, which was closed because it is on land the city once considered selling and because it is near a flood plain, will help the city eliminate trips to the Service Center.

As for applying the salt, Rorar, who has been on the job since February, said Street Department workers aren't always salting roads properly. Too often, he said, they are leaving the roads "wet," meaning the salt has melted all snow and ice on the surface. The salt should act only to break down ice and snow so plows can push it aside, he said.

Only 100 to 300 pounds of salt should be applied per mile, but he estimates much more is being used in many cases. Only two of the city's 16 trucks used to plow and salt streets are equipped with devices that monitor how much salt is being released and track the routes the trucks travel. Other communities, including Jackson and Plain townships, have been using the technology for a few years.

Rorar wants to equip Canton's trucks with this and other technology as the city buys them. The current fleet is so old it makes no sense to do it now, he said. Many trucks are a decade old and covered in rust. It will cost the city $151,000 per truck, and Rorar hopes to buy one or two per year.

Canton has about 7,000 tons of salt to start the season, including 1,600 supplied by Morton Salt Co. as a settlement for late deliveries last season. Canton will pay nearly $30 per ton more for salt this year through the Ohio Department of Transportation's cooperative purchasing program, which scored extremely low prices for the area through Morton last year. This year's vendor is Cargill.

"We look at salting incorrectly in this city," Rorar said. "What's a good salt job? When the roads are running wet? Wrong answer. It's a horrible answer. It's a foolish answer. That means we've gone to the extreme. The whole purpose is to break that bond between the snow and ice and the surface of the road pavement."

Rorar said hills, grades, curves, shaded areas, brick streets and U.S. Routes 30 and 62 deserve the most salt - but not straightaways.

"We've got to find a balance between safe roadways and protecting the aquifers," he said. "That leads to a third thing: Fiscal responsibility."

Reach Matthew at 330-580-8527 or

On Twitter: @mrinkREP



Posted Dec. 15, 2014 @ 9:30 am

Our view: We must protect our most precious resource: water

It was encouraging to read that the City of Canton, concerned about the safety of our water supply, commissioned an analysis that identified problems and potential solutions to keep our water supply safe.

One of the biggest threats to our water, based on this recently completed study, is over-salting our roads.

Water Superintendent Tyler Converse told the city council that there is an increase in chloride, which is salt, in two of the three aquifers that supply the city's water. Canton has the second largest groundwater source in Ohio. According to the report, these increased levels do not pose any risks to health or the infrastructure, but this early detection has officials making plans to bring them down.

Who can forget the Winter of 2014, when the cold and snow were unrelenting. Many of us felt the safest way to navigate city streets was to follow a salt truck. The winter was brutal and left us chilled to the bone, it also left us with numerous potholes and paving issues. So it is interesting that Public Works Superintendent Mike Rorar, who oversees the Canton Street Department, believes we over-salted our roads. Rorar, who has been on the job since February, believes the city is not salting properly. He says salt only should be applied to break down the ice and snow so plows can push it aside, not leave streets wet. Over-salting, when the roads are running wet, leads to more runoff from salted streets, and that runoff finds its way into the aquifer.

Canton is developing a comprehensive plan to protect our water supply from pollutants such as salt with the help of an Ohio-based environmental consulting group. This plan will identify what threatens our water so fixes can be made. This kind of proactive approach needs to be standard operating procedure for all local governments and agencies. When you are talking about our natural resources, particularly our water supply, you have to act quickly and decisively.

As we reported earlier this year, and Rorar restated to the council this week, only two of the city's 16 trucks used to salt and plow our streets are equipped with technology that monitors how much salt is being released. Other communities in Stark County have been using this technology for years. The technology isn't cheap, but what price tag do you put on clean water.

We have continually talked about the responsibility of the city to maintain our basic services; streets we can use are one of those services but a more fundamental need is clean water.

We agree with Mike Rorar's statement, "We've got to find a balance between safe roadways and protecting aquifers. That leads to a third thing: Fiscal responsibility."

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Contact Information: Reach Matthew at 330-580-8527 or On Twitter: @mrinkREP

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