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Town Plans No Salt Zones To Protect Lake Near Lake Placid

Main Street in Lake Placid overlooking Mirror Lake and the Adirondacks
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Main Street in Lake Placid overlooking Mirror Lake and the Adirondacks

The Town of North Elba plans to establish “salt-free zones” on some roads along Mirror Lake in Lake Placid this winter.  It’s part of a years-long effort to reduce salt runoff into the Adirondack lake.
As you walk down Main Street in the village of Lake Placid the adjacent water body is not Lake Placid.  It’s Mirror Lake.  2014 was the first year it was sampled by the Adirondack Lake Assessment Program. The study found that the majority of other lakes in the Adirondacks had lower concentrations of sodium and chloride than Mirror Lake.  Scientists said the elevated concentrations “…suggest the chemistry of the lake is substantially influenced by … salted roadways in the watershed.”

The Ausable River Association has also been testing the lake’s salt content. Science and Stewardship Director Brendan Wiltse says Mirror Lake is likely the most impacted from road salt in the Adirondacks.  “It has one of the highest surface chloride concentrations.  What is somewhat unique about the way that road salt is impacting Mirror Lake though is that the concentration of chloride, or salt, at the bottom of the lake is about twice that of what it is at the top.”

Officials in the town and village are working to protect the spring-fed lake by reducing salt use.  This year the town supervisor plans to create areas of no salt use.  Signs will be posted warning drivers and pedestrians.  

Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall says both the town and village are concerned about the levels of salt entering Mirror Lake.  “Much of it is the result of stormwater systems that were developed many many years ago, probably a hundred years ago that flow all of the stormwater from our Main Street areas and around the lake directly into Mirror Lake.”

Village streets encompass about two-thirds of Mirror Lake and the rest are town roads, according to Mayor Randall. He says with the rising concern about the impact of road salt they have participated in gathering scientific data for the past few years.  “Along with that the village this past year we accomplished a rebuild of a section of the east side of Mirror Lake’s drive which included the sidewalks and installing a new stormwater service in that area that carries road water away from Mirror Lake in fact and into a holding pond that’s outside of the village where environmentally we’re able to improve the water quality of Mirror Lake a little bit. The bigger project that Lake Placid is looking at which has a lot of different facets to it is an upgrade for the main street of the village which is where the bulk of the road salt via stormwater systems is flowing into Mirror Lake.”

Randall says the village and town will continue to seek ways to reduce the use of road salt or find alternatives.  “It’s a joint effort of all parties that are involved with our road systems and sidewalks to make sure that we’re not applying any more of that product than possible or that is necessary. And in fact this year the town on its portion around Mirror Lake is going to attempt to go with no salt application except at an intersection. They will sand. But there’ll be signage installed warning drivers.  So we’ll see what the result of that is.  The village experiments with different products. But you know we’re very concerned.  As mayor I’ve often referred to Mirror Lake as the crown jewel of the village.”

The no-salt zone on roads along Mirror Lake will be designated when the Town of North Elba receives and posts the warning signs.

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