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Adirondack Road Salt Task Force holds public meeting in Lake Placid

Courtesy of Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Road salt

The Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force met in Lake Placid this week. While the mid-afternoon session was sparsely attended, a number of concerns about the use of salt and potential alternatives were discussed.

Under legislation passed in 2021, the task force is required to undertake a comprehensive review and assessment of road salt use and potential contamination within the Adirondack Park. It must assess policies and practices and scientifically assess the magnitude of impacts to surface and groundwater, property and infrastructure while gauging travel safety and best practices for road salt use.

The task force has formed four work groups: salt impact, traffic monitoring and public safety, best management practices and training and outreach.

During the meeting task force leaders provided updates. Adirondack Watershed Institute Executive Director Dr. Daniel Kelting leads the Salt Impact Working Group.

“What we’re doing right now is we’re working on that road salt impacts," Kelting said. "We’re making good progress. There’s a wealth of really solid information related to road salt impacts on our environment. We feel quite confident that we should have a very valuable important report given that we do have access to such a wealth of information.”

The Best Management Practices, or BMP, work group is led by Hamilton County Superintendent of Public Works Tracy Eldridge. He said their goal is to come up with a list of best practices to reduce the salt applied not only to state and local roads but also to parking lots, sidewalks and other surfaces.

“We need to identify the barriers that have prevented many of these well-known BMP’s from being adopted like costs, public expectations and even legal impediments," said Eldridge.

New York Offshore Wind Alliance Director Joe Martens was commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation from 2011 until 2015. Working with the impact group, he said the good news is that there is already an enormous amount of information on the impacts and best practices concerning road salt.

“We in New York and probably across the nation have been looking at this issue for decades," Martens said. "Even though we know what the best management practices are, there are obviously impediments to getting them implemented. Some of them are social. Some of them are economic. There’s lots of reasons. But while we do that we’ve seen a gradual deterioration in things like water quality, in impacts to forest soils, to species of all sorts. So our charge is to figure out what those barriers have been and bring them down so that we can actually make an impact and reverse the trends which unfortunately are long term.”

Road salt runoff and subsequent contamination of Adirondack waterways and drinking water supplies will be a focus of the task force.

Lake Clear Association President Peter Lanahan stepped up to the podium during public comments to tell task force members salt contamination is getting worse.

“The salt byproducts are getting worse," Lanahan said. "We’ve asked for a low-salt zone to be established and you can call it a salt reduction target, a pilot project, whatever you want but to get started with reducing the amount of salt that is applied around the Lake Clear watershed. We have contaminated lake water. We have contaminated wells. We have Lake Clear which is the headwaters of the Saranac chain of lakes so whatever salt comes into Lake Clear can go someplace else. Lake Clear sits atop a state designated principle aquifer that is a potential drinking water source.”

This was the Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force’s second public meeting.

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