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Sixth road salt summit held in Lake George

A truck demonstrates brine application
Lucas Willard
/
WAMC
A truck demonstrates brine application

The sixth annual conference on reducing the use of road salt was held today in Lake George. Strategies to protect the environment and save municipalities money were on display.

In the parking lot of the Fort William Henry Hotel and Conference Center in Lake George, a truck with a large tank and a sprayer on the back is laying down a coating of brine.

The solution is marketed as a way to reduce to use of rock salt to melt ice in the winter.

The Adirondack Champlain Regional Salt Summit brings together municipal leaders and highway crews, state officials and scientists to share how communities can reduce the use of salt.

Rob Vopelous, Winter Maintenance Specialist for the Town of Lake George, says the town has been using salt reduction techniques for the last six years, but he’s been in the snow-and-ice removal field about 21 years. He says the techniques have a big impact – saving on money, time, and keeping roads more free of snow.

“It was a big transition from sand, primarily sand, to salt, and then reducing the salt and then starting to use liquid de-icers. Liquid de-icers allowed us to basically cut our rates almost in half on most everything,” said Vopelus.

The annual salt summit is organized by the Lake George Association. LGA President Eric Siy says he wants what’s being done here to reduce salt use to be replicated across the state.

“We want to have that multiplier effect, that ripple effect that shows people, ‘Hey, they did it! We can do this,’” said Siy.

Municipalities in the Lake George Basin have banded together through a memorandum of understanding to reduce the use of road salt. And the New York State Department of Transportation is also a key partner, according to Siy.

“State DOT can be a leader and we’re so eager to work with them, applying what we’ve learned and demonstrated here at Lake George to ensure that these same practices and the same benefits are realized across the state,” said Siy.

Rob Fitch, DOT’s Director of Transportation Maintenance, says he wants salt reduction techniques to be used everywhere they can.

“Some salt management pilots we’re doing in addition to Lake George is in Lake Placid. We’re also doing a direct liquids – which is a brine-only application – in Saratoga County. And we’re doing, also, a direct-liquids application in Herkimer County on Route 5,” said Fitch.

The salt summit also brought in experts from over state lines. Traveling from the Granite State, Ted Diers, Administrator for the Watershed Management Bureau at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, was the day’s keynote speaker.

While efforts by state and municipal governments are key to reducing salt use, about 50 percent of use comes from private entities, according to Diers. Though the benefits of salt-reduction technologies are known locally, Diers said educational programs are important, as is legislation to limit liability for entities that use salt reduction techniques — to prevent the fear of potentially being sued for slip-and-fall injuries.

“So this is a real issue, and so what our legislature did was created a law that said, if you’re doing the right thing, if you’re not negligent – it’s kind of like a ski area, you know – it acknowledges that winter is dangerous. So if you are able to clear the street, it’s not icy, and you’re using the salt reduction methods that we teach, you can’t be sued for slip and fall simply because you are using less salt,” said Diers.

WAMC's Lucas Willard speaks with Ted Diers, Administrator for the Watershed Management Bureau at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services
WAMC's Lucas Willard speaks with Ted Diers, Administrator for the Watershed Management Bureau at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services