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Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force report released

File photo of a snow plow
Pat Bradley/WAMC
A snow plow in action in northern New York.

A long-awaited report from the Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force has been issued and advocates say it’s now time to implement its recommendations.

The new report from the Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force notes that about 193,000 tons of road salt are used annually in the Adirondacks with 56 percent being applied on state roads.

The report includes numerous recommendations including implementing new water quality and monitoring guidelines and implementation of best management practices including the frequency and amount of road salt use.

A-D-K Action works with communities in the Adirondacks to determine best practices for the reduction of the use of salt. Executive Director Sawyer Bailey is excited to see many of the projects that they have been implementing are among the formal recommendations in the report.

“The six best management practices that were outlined in the report are actually the six that A-D-K Action uses in its Clean Waters Safe Roads Program. And its’s really common sense. Measure what you’re putting out on the road, calibrate your equipment. Our Clean Waters Safe Roads Program was created because even while we waited for the state to take action with the report we saw a real window of opportunity to work with our town and county highway departments to help them make progress on their own goals for salt reduction because there’s pretty substantial buy in about this at the local and regional level.”

Adirondack Council Spokesman John Sheehan says more than six million tons of road salt has been applied to Adirondack roads since the state began using road salt on state roads in the 1980s. He is pleased that the report has finally been issued.

“The report identifies the problem pretty well. It goes right on to say that essentially that the state’s been applying too much salt in a variety of places based on the scientific studies that have been done and that they’ve identified ways that they can reduce that salt. What we don’t see here is a specific implementation plan. We’d love to see detail on how the state intends to carry out the recommendations in here. There are some good pilot projects identified. There are good goals identified. But we don’t know how much money the state has to spend on this and we don’t know how many personnel it intends to devote to the job.”

The bill creating the Task Force was introduced by Assemblyman D. Billy Jones, a Democrat from the 115th District. He says the report is the first step in reconciling the negative effects of road salt.

“I would have liked to see a little more in the funding piece. Overall the report said you know we need to do more for clean water. Well, we need to do more in specific areas to stop the salt runoff, to stop this getting into our waterways and as well our private dwellings. But I think having the report out is good.”

Runoff has polluted groundwater and nearby lakes and streams. Assemblyman Matt Simpson, a Republican representing the 114th Assembly District, has not seen the report but says road salt is negatively affecting the region’s ecosystem.

“We know that it impacts the ecosystems in the lakes. I represent Lake George, one of the cleanest lakes in the country, and we’ve seen the detrimental effects happening in that lake where it’s changing the ecology.”

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