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We have been working to reduce road salt pollution in the Adirondacks since 2010.  We administer the Adirondack Road Salt Working Group to foster a unified regional strategy to reduce road salt pollution and to publicly recommend and support alternative deicing products/techniques and best management practices. 



By partnering with local colleges, organizations, and private research firms, we help to uncover the true impacts of road salt in the Adirondacks. We sponsor research to get answers for our specific region and promote the sharing of research relevant to decision making for winter road maintenance. Focus areas include: surface water, ground water (including drinking water), economic impacts, and public health. 



We've co-sponsored three regional conferences on Road Salt Reduction since 2010 and been featured speakers at the Salt Summits and Conferences held by partner organizations. These conferences and events are valuable opportunities to share research and resources with winter road maintenance professionals, government decision-makers, and other stakeholders. 

Road Salt News

  • 11 Jun 2018 1:45 PM | AdkAction.org (Administrator)

    A new study, which state officials say they are reviewing, shows that drinking water wells in the path of runoff from state roads in the Adirondack Park tend to have high levels of salt.

    The potential culprit? Road salt.

    The study, conducted by Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute, sampled nearly 400 private wells across the park. Some wells sampled received no runoff, some received local road runoff and others received state road runoff.

    Of those that received state road runoff, more than half had chloride levels higher than 20 milligrams per liter, and a quarter of those wells had levels exceeding 250 milligrams per liter. That’s compared to about 10 percent of wells that receive runoff from local roads, which detected levels higher than 20 milligrams per liter. No wells receiving local road runoff exceeded 250 milligrams per liter.

    Of the approximately 400 sampled, 55 were in Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties, with the majority in Warren County. None of the wells in those counties exceeded any chloride guidelines.

    Chloride is not on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of drinking water contaminants that pose a risk to human health and thus is not federally regulated. It is, however, on a list of secondary standards that may affect water’s taste, odor and appearance. It also may affect the technical functioning of equipment. In this instance, federal guidelines show that 250 milligrams per liter of chloride or more makes water taste salty.

    The state Department of Health said there are other guidelines for those on low sodium diets or moderately restricted sodium diets. For example, those on low sodium diets should not drink water that exceeds 20 milligrams per liter. The state also utilizes the EPA’s saltiness guideline.

    Still, too much salt in diets has shown to increase risk of heart disease and strokes. Some people are also seeing corroded pipes and plumbing fixtures due to salt, according to a release.

    AdkAction, a nonprofit organization representing different issues in the Adirondacks, thinks the state needs to do more in reducing its use of road salt. The state Department of Transportation announced last month a pilot study for some state roads around Lake George and Mirror Lake, where road salt-reducing initiatives will be used while still keeping motorists safe.

    “While we appreciate being invited to participate in the strategic working group and acknowledge that the pilots in Lake George and Lake Placid are a step in the right direction, we must insist that the state take a stronger stance to protect Adirondack waters,” said AdkAction Executive Director Brittany Christensen in a release. “Based on the study, more than half of private wells located along state roads are likely contaminated with road salt, and we want the state to reexamine its entire winter road maintenance protocol and use the entire Adirondack Park as a pilot area for statewide reduction.”

    Joe Morrissey, spokesperson for DOT, said the agency appreciates the partnership with AdkAction and other organizations to maintain the beauty and character of the park.

    “They have contacted the State with their data, and the State is in the process of reviewing and further analyzing the study,” he added in a statement. “We are happy to partner with them to conduct pilot projects to investigate the feasibility of reducing salt application rates, while continuing to meet our legal duty to provide for the safety of the traveling public.”

    Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky, who also worked on the study, said he believes the state’s recently announced pilot study is a step in the right direction, though he feels more could be done. Both The Fund for Lake George and the Lake George Association have worked on road salt reduction programs, as have various municipalities and other stakeholder groups.

    “We felt the state should look at that (study) and not be as cautious as they are,” Navitsky said. “We feel that we can maintain road safety, which is the most important way with this, but we can do it in ways where you can reduce the amount of road salt. And we understand that they’re cautious, of course, but clearly there’s evidence that shows we can be successful.”

    Reporter Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (518) 742-3238 or gcraig@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.


  • 06 Jun 2018 10:17 AM | AdkAction.org (Administrator)

    A new study shows runoff from decades of road salting in the Adirondacks polluted more than half of the wells tested downslope from state roads and highways.

    Testing by the Paul Smith's College Adirondack Watershed Institute found 63 wells, or some 55 percent that got runoff from state roads, had sodium at levels above the federal guideline, which is 20 parts per million. The median level was 26 and the maximum was 748 ppm.

    "The actual number of wells that are contaminated is way, way more than what we sampled," said Dan Kelting, institute executive director. "So it is a much bigger issue."

    The federal Environmental Protection Agency says a large body of evidence suggests that excessive sodium intake contributes to age-related increases in blood pressure, which carries an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, renal insufficiency, and peripheral vascular diseases.

    Last week, the state Department of Transportation announced pilot programs to cut its use of salt on some stretches of road near Lake George and Mirror Lake.

    Meanwhile, attorney Bill Owens in Plattsburgh said he's in an "exploratory" phase of a possible lawsuit by affected landowners against the state for contaminating their wells. Possible relief could include getting new water lines or desalination systems and bottled water in the meantime, he said.

    The study was funded by AdkAction, a nonprofit group founded by permanent and seasonal Adirondack Park residents, and the Fund for Lake George.

    Well samples sent in from 358 volunteers from all around the Adirondack Park were tested, most from the eastern half, many from the regions around the Saranac Lakes and North Creek.

    The testing found only 10 percent with elevated levels among 112 that were downslope and getting runoff from local roads, where less or no salt is used against icing.

    None exceeded health guidance levels among the 132 wells that were upslope of the state or local roadways, where there was no road runoff. That median was 3 ppm and the maximum was 17.

    Almost 193,000 tons of salt are spread on highways and local roads annually in the Adirondacks to help protect drivers from skidding on ice, with almost 7 million tons of sodium chloride spread and joining runoff into waterways and wells since 1980, according to Kelting.

    Most of the Adirondack road salt, about 110,000 tons annually, is applied to state roads and highways, according to Kelting. They comprise only about one-fourth of the Adirondacks' total roadways, but often have higher speed limits than local roads, many of which are plowed and sanded or just plowed, he said.

    State officials have been briefed and examined the study, Kelting said. The state Department of Health has offered to test for free the well water of affected homeowners and begun doing that, he said. 

    Original Article: https://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Study-Road-salt-tainted-wells-12967471.php#photo-15670162

  • 06 Jun 2018 10:16 AM | AdkAction.org (Administrator)

    By GLYNIS HART

    ADIRONDACK DAILY ENTERPRISE

    GHART@ADIRONDACKDAILYENTERPRISE.COM

    PUBLISHED: MONDAY, JUNE 4, 2018 AT 5:15 AM

    SARANAC LAKE — A study of 358 private wells scattered across the Adirondacks found that salt used to de-ice wintertime roads is contaminating groundwater and seeping into private wells.

    Daniel Kelting, executive director of the Adirondack Watershed Institute and a professor at Paul Smith’s College, presented the findings of the study to the public at the Saranac Lake Free Library Wednesday night. Officials from several state agencies attended, including the departments of Transportation, Health and Environmental Conservation.

    The study, funded by Adk­Action and the Fund for Lake George, found the heavy use of salt on state highways is responsible for most well contamination. While state highways are only one-quarter of the roads in the Adirondack Park, they contribute 55 percent of the road salt. Town and county roads that are maintained by local highway departments also apply salt to roads, but they don’t use it in the same way. Some local roads are not salted at all, while others are salted on an as-needed basis. State highway crews, however, follow strict rules on when to apply salt and how much.

    “State roads are all 55 mph [outside communities], and they have to be maintained to the highest level of service,” said Kelting. “They have to be drivable within a certain time frame after an event. Local roads have a variety of levels of salting.

    “It makes it simple — to reduce salinization, we need to focus on state roads.”

    The study included 132 wells with no road runoff, 114 with state road runoff and 112 with local road runoff. Study participation was voluntary. Homeowners who volunteered received a sampling kit with instructions and mailed their samples to Kelting, who collected and analyzed the data.

    “We found regional salinization of surface and groundwater,” said Kelting. “We use too much salt.”

    In one year, 192,700 tons of road salt are applied to Adirondack roads. Town and county roads receive 10 tons per lane mile per year; state roads get 37 tons per lane mile per year. (A lane mile is one side of the road, thus one mile of a two-lane road equals 2 lane miles.)

    The use of road salt began around 1980, said Kelting. Since that time, 6,937,200 tons of salt have been applied to the roads.

    “Roughly one-third of our lakes have road salt in them,” he said. “Fifty-two percent of our streams have salinization.”

    Thanks to the coarseness of local soil, water flows easily from the surface into groundwater supplies and wells, Kelting said.

    “Salinization has effects on ecosystems, human health and property values,” he said. “Your property values could be affected if your water’s polluted.”

    Many of the wells tested were found to be exceeding Health Department guidelines of less than 20 parts per million of sodium. Lloyd Wilson, head of the DOH drinking water program, pointed out those guidelines don’t mean the water is unsafe for everyone. “Those are action levels for those on a sodium-restricted diet.”

    Kelting said the natural salinity of water in the Adirondacks, found in wells unaffected by road salt, is less than 0.5 ppm.

    Road salt, commonly marketed as halite, is a combination of two elements: sodium (Na) and chloride (Cl). Kelting explained that the two elements form a weak ionic bond, which means they break up and combine with other elements easily. Wells were tested for both sodium and chloride.

    “There are other chloride de-icers, which are effective but more expensive,” Kelting said. “Only halite is naturally occurring. The others have to be manufactured.

    Pilot program

    AdkAction and the state DOT have come up with a pilot program to reduce the use of road salt on state highways. Areas around Mirror Lake, Wilmington and Lake George have been chosen to test methods to keep roads clear while reducing salt usage.

    Randy Preston, supervisor of the town of Wilmington and chair of the Essex County Board of Supervisors, was also present at Wednesday’s forum.

    “We did some testing, and it was very concerning,” he said of Wilmington. Preston said he initially thought his town would have to fight the DOT to get it to change the road salt usage, but “DOT worked with us. We’re working together to come up with solutions everybody is comfortable with, balancing public safety and the environment.”

    Brittany Christenson, director of AdkAction, said the pilot programs will use a whole slate of best-management practices to see what works, including using double blades on plows and using brine instead of dry salt.

    “We’re hoping to learn something we can take statewide,” she said.

    Highway crews will use double blades and live-edge plow blades to remove more snow and ice from the roads; use treated salt, which is more effective at colder temperatures; use Automatic Vehicle Location technology, which will help equipment operators know how much salt they’re using; evaluate cutting back some of the tree canopy to reduce shade on the roads; and try reduced seasonal speed limits.

    Meanwhile, Preston said public workers will continue to test the water to see if the salt load is being reduced.

    Preston and Kelting noted that using more sand isn’t the solution. Kelting said that before salt came into use, people had concerns about using sand.

    “Sand is not inert,” he said.

    “If the sand washes into the streams, it fills up the trout-spawning areas,” said Preston. “The sand has to get picked up.”

    Preston said his town’s highway workers have just finished removing sand from state and local roads.

    “Is it less harmful than salt? In my opinion, yes, but it needs to be picked up,” he said.

    During the forum’s question-and-answer period, a woman from the audience asked, “What do we do now? What should people whose wells are non-potable do?”

    The DOH’s Wilson responded, “Private wells are the responsibility of the homeowner.”

    By the numbers:

    6,937,200 tons of road salt applied to roads in the Adirondacks since 1980

    192,700 tons applied in one year

    55 percent of that comes from the state, even though only about 25 percent of the roads are state highways

    10 tons of road salt per lane mile per year applied to town and county roads

    37 tons of road salt per lane mile per year applied to state roads

    (Source: Adirondack Watershed Institute)

    Original Article:

     http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/news05/study-road-salt-pervades-adirondack-groundwater-20180604&

  • 01 Jun 2018 11:58 AM | AdkAction.org (Administrator)

    New Strategic Working Group Made up of State Agencies, Scientists and Environmental Representatives to Develop New Strategies for Keeping Roads Safe while Reducing Impacts of Road Salt

    New York State Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Paul A. Karas today announced two new innovative pilot programs to help rejuvenate Mirror Lake and Lake George by reducing the application of road salt while still protecting the safety of the traveling public.

    The program on Mirror Lake will be launched on a 16-mile stretch along State Route 86 starting at Old Military Road and going through the Towns of North Elba and Wilmington and the Village of Lake Placid, Essex County.  Alternatively, the pilot program on Lake George will span the approximately 17 mile length of Route 9N from the Village of Lake George to the Town of Bolton.  Both pilots in the Adirondacks will leverage all the Department’s best management practices to reduce salt application rates while still satisfying goals of maintaining safety on the state’s highway system.  Road salt is one of the challenges impacting the Adirondack Park’s cherished aquatic ecosystems.  In collaboration with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the new salt management practices being implemented by the State are intended to help protect the environment as well as encourage commercial and private land-owners to implement similar reductions in their salt utilization.

    In addition, the Department of Transportation, together with DEC and DOH, has already established a strategic working group, which includes participating municipalities, and organizations such as AdkAction and The FUND for Lake George-Lake George Waterkeeper, to evaluate the effectiveness of the pilots, which could potentially have an impact on snow and ice practices statewide.

    “At the Department of Transportation, safety is our highest priority, and salt has proven to be one of the most effective ways in maintaining a safe highway for the traveling public.  At the same time, we understand that there is a delicate balance between protecting the Adirondacks and maintaining safe highways for motorists, given current materials and methods of technologies available,” Acting Commissioner Karas said.  “Lake George and Mirror Lake are known worldwide for their pristine beauty, and these new pilot programs will strive to keep our roadways safe while enhancing environmental sustainability.  The Adirondacks are a national treasure and as stewards of many roads within the Park, we are committed to working with stakeholders to reduce salt and retain the Park’s beauty for generations to come.”

    New Pilot Programs Initiated on Mirror Lake and Lake George

    The intent of these pilots is to utilize all of the Department of Transportation’s best management practices, and then evaluate the degree of salt reduction it can implement without negatively affecting the safety of the traveling public. The best management practices the Department will implement as part of these pilots include:

    • Using brine for pre-storm anti-icing.
    • The use of a plow truck with a segmented plow blade and other alternative blade technologies to mechanically remove as much snow and ice from the pavement as possible.
    • Using treated salt, which is more effective at colder temperatures.
    • Using Automatic Vehicle Location equipment that can track salt application rates and regularly calibrate the salt spreading equipment.
    • Closely monitoring salt use during storms while performing post-storm evaluations to review application rates and the performance of those rates.
    • State agencies will work with partners within the park to monitor surface and groundwater quality in the pilot areas.
    • Evaluation of cutting back some trees in key locations to allow the sun to melt the snow and ice on portions of shaded roadways.
    • Evaluation of abrasives and abrasive mixes.
    • Leveraging other Maintenance Program Areas (drainage, pavement, environmental) to see how they can be used to facilitate snow and ice operations, and subsequently reduce the dependence on road salt.

    The plans will also include other considerations to ensure the pilots are conducted in a safe manner, such as new signage for motorists on State Route 86 and 9N, within the pilot locations. The signage will be used to indicate that reduced salt application rates are being utilized on the roadway.

    These pilots will be performed throughout the course of the 2018-19 snow and ice season. At the close of the season, a review will be performed to determine the effectiveness of the pilots, including on safety, and to consider the feasibility of expanding the salt reduction practice.

    “We are pleased to announce the new pilots in Mirror Lake, along the AuSable River, and in the Lake George watershed,” said Brittany Christenson, Executive Director of AdkAction. “We have been working closely with researchers, local politicians, and our partners to advocate for a reduction in road salt for nearly a decade and we’ve learned that a full sleight of best management practices is required if we are going to reverse the trend of salt loading in our precious water resources.” 

    “Through our ongoing Road Salt Reduction Initiative within the Lake George watershed with the S.A.V.E. Lake George Partnership, we know that implementing Best Practices can reduce road salt applications and we have the data to support that,” said Chris Navitsky, the Lake George Waterkeeper.  “We are glad to have New York State join in this initiative with their pilot project to become part of the first watershed-wide assessment of implementing road salt reduction practices.  Their participation will be vital to help protect the world recognized water resources of the Adirondacks.”

    Previous Successes and Other Efforts to Protect the Adirondacks

    The pilots also build upon previous successes the Department of Transportation has implemented within the Adirondack Park, including a comprehensive plan from NYSDOT and the State Department of Environmental Conservation released for managing state highways in the Adirondack Park while retaining the park-like character.

    Other NYSDOT initiatives aimed at protecting the Adirondack Park include the establishment of locations along State highways for boat inspection and decontamination stations to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive plants; the installation of fencing to prevent turtles from crossing Route 30 near Tupper Lake; providing for aquatic species passage during construction work and updating project guidance; and working with The Nature Conservancy last fall to install the state’s first-ever “critter shelf,” a two-foot-wide walkway suspended in a large culvert under State Route 12, south of Boonville, Oneida County, giving wildlife an alternative to crossing the busy road.  The Department of Transportation has also begun construction on the Adirondack Welcome Center along the Adirondack Northway (I-87) in Queensbury, which is expected to open in the fall of 2018.

    In addition, the Department of Health and DEC are currently reviewing data included in a study from Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute about salt in drinking water wells in areas of the Adirondacks to better understand the nature and extent of presence of salt in the groundwater.  The agencies are working with researchers and residents to analyze and understand study results and the need for further efforts.  To that end, DOH is offering free confirmatory sampling from its state-certified lab for any interested resident in this study, and is available to speak with residents to provide additional information.These efforts will further the state’s commitment to evaluating reduced salt applications within the boundaries of the Adirondack Park while ensuring the continued well-being of North Country residents year round.

    Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “DEC is proud to work with the State Department of Transportation on these innovative pilot programs carefully designed to maintain public safety without compromising the Adirondack Park’s environmental treasures. These pilots will inform and improve public policy and bolster the way we work together to protect our communities and the fragile ecosystems critical to the overall health of our environment.”

    New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “Spending time outdoors enjoying our state’s renowned Adirondack region, including its lakes, will help New Yorkers live a healthier life.  I commend our partners in state government for developing these innovate programs to protect New York’s world-class natural resources for future generations while still maintaining highway safety.”

    https://www.adirondackexplorer.org/news_releases/dot-announcement-pilot-programs-to-reduce-salt-on-mirror-lake-and-lake-george

  • 01 Jun 2018 11:56 AM | AdkAction.org (Administrator)
    Contact: Joseph Morrissey, (518) 457-6400
    Release Date: May 30, 2018
    State Department Of Transportation Announces Innovative New Pilot Programs To Reduce The Impacts Of Salt On Mirror Lake And Lake George

    New Strategic Working Group Made up of State Agencies, Scientists and Environmental Representatives to Develop New Strategies for Keeping Roads Safe while Reducing Impacts of Road Salt

    New York State Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Paul A. Karas today announced two new innovative pilot programs to help rejuvenate Mirror Lake and Lake George by reducing the application of road salt while still protecting the safety of the traveling public. 

    The program on Mirror Lake will be launched on a 16-mile stretch along State Route 86 starting at Old Military Road and going through the Towns of North Elba and Wilmington and the Village of Lake Placid, Essex County.  Alternatively, the pilot program on Lake George will span the approximately 17 mile length of Route 9N from the Village of Lake George to the Town of Bolton.  Both pilots in the Adirondacks will leverage all the Department’s best management practices to reduce salt application rates while still satisfying goals of maintaining safety on the state’s highway system.  Road salt is one of the challenges impacting the Adirondack Park’s cherished aquatic ecosystems.  In collaboration with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the new salt management practices being implemented by the State are intended to help protect the environment as well as encourage commercial and private land-owners to implement similar reductions in their salt utilization.  

     

    In addition, the Department of Transportation, together with DEC and DOH, has already established a strategic working group, which includes participating municipalities, and organizations such as AdkAction and The FUND for Lake George-Lake George Waterkeeper, to evaluate the effectiveness of the pilots, which could potentially have an impact on snow and ice practices statewide.

      

    “At the Department of Transportation, safety is our highest priority, and salt has proven to be one of the most effective ways in maintaining a safe highway for the traveling public.  At the same time, we understand that there is a delicate balance between protecting the Adirondacks and maintaining safe highways for motorists, given current materials and methods of technologies available,” Acting Commissioner Karas said.  “Lake George and Mirror Lake are known worldwide for their pristine beauty, and these new pilot programs will strive to keep our roadways safe while enhancing environmental sustainability.  The Adirondacks are a national treasure and as stewards of many roads within the Park, we are committed to working with stakeholders to reduce salt and retain the Park’s beauty for generations to come.”

       

    New Pilot Programs Initiated on Mirror Lake and Lake George

     

    The intent of these pilots is to utilize all of the Department of Transportation’s best management practices, and then evaluate the degree of salt reduction it can implement without negatively affecting the safety of the traveling public. The best management practices the Department will implement as part of these pilots include:

     

    • Using brine for pre-storm anti-icing.
    • The use of a plow truck with a segmented plow blade and other alternative blade technologies to mechanically remove as much snow and ice from the pavement as possible.
    • Using treated salt, which is more effective at colder temperatures.
    • Using Automatic Vehicle Location equipment that can track salt application rates and regularly calibrate the salt spreading equipment.
    • Closely monitoring salt use during storms while performing post-storm evaluations to review application rates and the performance of those rates.
    • State agencies will work with partners within the park to monitor surface and groundwater quality in the pilot areas.
    • Evaluation of cutting back some trees in key locations to allow the sun to melt the snow and ice on portions of shaded roadways.
    • Evaluation of abrasives and abrasive mixes.
    • Leveraging other Maintenance Program Areas (drainage, pavement, environmental) to see how they can be used to facilitate snow and ice operations, and subsequently reduce the dependence on road salt.

     

    The plans will also include other considerations to ensure the pilots are conducted in a safe manner, such as new signage for motorists on State Route 86 and 9N, within the pilot locations. The signage will be used to indicate that reduced salt application rates are being utilized on the roadway.

     

    These pilots will be performed throughout the course of the 2018-19 snow and ice season. At the close of the season, a review will be performed to determine the effectiveness of the pilots, including on safety, and to consider the feasibility of expanding the salt reduction practice. 

     

    “We are pleased to announce the new pilots in Mirror Lake, along the AuSable River, and in the Lake George watershed,” said Brittany Christenson, Executive Director of AdkAction. “We have been working closely with researchers, local politicians, and our partners to advocate for a reduction in road salt for nearly a decade and we’ve learned that a full sleight of best management practices is required if we are going to reverse the trend of salt loading in our precious water resources.” 

     

    “Through our ongoing Road Salt Reduction Initiative within the Lake George watershed with the S.A.V.E. Lake George Partnership, we know that implementing Best Practices can reduce road salt applications and we have the data to support that,” said Chris Navitsky, the Lake George Waterkeeper.  “We are glad to have New York State join in this initiative with their pilot project to become part of the first watershed-wide assessment of implementing road salt reduction practices.  Their participation will be vital to help protect the world recognized water resources of the Adirondacks.”

      

    Previous Successes and Other Efforts to Protect the Adirondacks

     

    The pilots also build upon previous successes the Department of Transportation has implemented within the Adirondack Park, including a comprehensive plan from NYSDOT and the State Department of Environmental Conservation released for managing state highways in the Adirondack Park while retaining the park-like character.

     

    Other NYSDOT initiatives aimed at protecting the Adirondack Park include the establishment of locations along State highways for boat inspection and decontamination stations to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive plants; the installation of fencing to prevent turtles from crossing Route 30 near Tupper Lake; providing for aquatic species passage during construction work and updating project guidance; and working with The Nature Conservancy last fall to install the state’s first-ever “critter shelf,” a two-foot-wide walkway suspended in a large culvert under State Route 12, south of Boonville, Oneida County, giving wildlife an alternative to crossing the busy road.  The Department of Transportation has also begun construction on the Adirondack Welcome Center along the Adirondack Northway (I-87) in Queensbury, which is expected to open in the fall of 2018.

     

    In addition, the Department of Health and DEC are currently reviewing data included in a study from Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute about salt in drinking water wells in areas of the Adirondacks to better understand the nature and extent of presence of salt in the groundwater.  The agencies are working with researchers and residents to analyze and understand study results and the need for further efforts.  To that end, DOH is offering free confirmatory sampling from its state-certified lab for any interested resident in this study, and is available to speak with residents to provide additional information. These efforts will further the state’s commitment to evaluating reduced salt applications within the boundaries of the Adirondack Park while ensuring the continued well-being of North Country residents year round.   

     

    Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “DEC is proud to work with the State Department of Transportation on these innovative pilot programs carefully designed to maintain public safety without compromising the Adirondack Park’s environmental treasures. These pilots will inform and improve public policy and bolster the way we work together to protect our communities and the fragile ecosystems critical to the overall health of our environment.”

     

    New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “Spending time outdoors enjoying our state’s renowned Adirondack region, including its lakes, will help New Yorkers live a healthier life.  I commend our partners in state government for developing these innovate programs to protect New York’s world-class natural resources for future generations while still maintaining highway safety.”

     

    ###



  • 01 Jun 2018 11:53 AM | AdkAction.org (Administrator)

    SARANAC LAKE — A study of 358 private wells scattered across the Adirondacks found that salt used to de-ice wintertime roads is contaminating groundwater and seeping into private wells.

    Daniel Kelting, executive director of the Adirondack Watershed Institute and a professor at Paul Smith’s College, presented the findings of the study to the public at the Saranac Lake Free Library Wednesday night. Officials from several state agencies attended, including the departments of Transportation, Health and Environmental Conservation.

    The study, funded by AdkAction and the Fund for Lake George, found the heavy use of salt on state highways is responsible for most well contamination. While state highways are only one-quarter of the roads in the Adirondack Park, they contribute 55 percent of the road salt. Town and county roads that are maintained by local highway departments also apply salt to roads, but they don’t use it in the same way. Some local roads are not salted at all while others are salted on an as-needed basis. State highway crews, however, follow strict rules on when to apply salt and how much.

    “State roads are all 55 mph [outside communities], and they have to be maintained to the highest level of service,”said Kelting. “They have to be drivable within a certain time frame after an event. Local roads have a variety of levels of salting.

    “It makes it simple — to reduce salinization, we need to focus on state roads.”

    The study included 132 wells with no road runoff, 114 with state road runoff and 112 with local road runoff. Study participation was voluntary. Homeowners who volunteered received a sampling kit with instructions and mailed their samples to Kelting, who collected and analysed the data.

    “We found regional salinization of surface and groundwater,” said Kelting. “We use too much salt.”

    In one year, 192,700 tons of road salt are applied to Adirondack roads. Town and county roads receive 10 tons per lane mile per year; state roads get 37 tons per lane mile per year. (A lane mile is one side of the road, thus one mile of a two-lane road equals 2 lane miles.)

    The use of road salt began around 1980, said Kelting. Since that time, 6,937,200 tons of salt have been applied to the roads.

    “Roughly one-third of our lakes have road salt in them,”he said. “Fifty-two percent of our streams have salinization.”

    Thanks to the coarseness of local soil, water flows easily from the surface into groundwater supplies and wells, Kelting said.

    “Salinization has effects on ecosystems, human health and property values,” he said. “Your property values could be affected if your water’s polluted.”

    Many of the wells tested were found to be exceeding health department guidelines for less than 20 parts per million of sodium. Lloyd Wilson, head of the DOH Drinking Water program, pointed out those guidelines don’t mean the water is unsafe for everyone. “Those are action levels for those on a sodium-restricted diet.”

    Kelting said the natural salinity of water in the Adirondacks, found in wells unaffected by road salt, is less than 0.5 ppm.

    Road salt, commonly marketed as halite, is a combination of two elements: sodium (Na) and chloride (Cl). Kelting explained that the two elements form a weak ionic bond, which means they break up and combine with other elements easily. Wells were tested for both sodium and chloride.

    “There are other chloride de-icers, which are effective but more expensive,” Kelting said. “Only halite is naturally occurring. The others have to be manufactured.

    “If we care, we need to act.”

    Wilmington, Lake Placid to pilot new program

    AdkAction and the state DOT have come up with a pilot program to reduce the use of road salt on state highways. Areas around Mirror Lake, Wilmington and Lake George have been chosen to test methods to keep roads clear while reducing salt usage.

    Randy Preston, supervisor of the town of Wilmington and chair of the Essex County Board of Supervisors, was also present at Wednesday’s forum.

    “We did some testing, and it was very concerning,” he said of Wilmington. Preston said he initially thought his town would have to fight the DOT to get it to change the road salt usage, but “DOT worked with us. We’re working together to come up with solutions everybody is comfortable with, balancing public safety and the environment.”

    Brittany Christenson, director of AdkAction, said the pilot programs will use a whole slate of best management practices to see what works, including using double blades on plows and using brine instead of dry salt.

    “We’re hoping to learn something we can take statewide,”she said.

    Highway crews will use double blades and live-edge plow blades to remove more snow and ice from the roads; use treated salt, which is more effective at colder temperatures; use Automatic Vehicle Location technology, which will help equipment operators know how much salt they’re using; evaluate cutting back some of the tree canopy to reduce shade on the roads; and try reduced seasonal speed limits.

    Meanwhile, Preston said public workers will continue to test the water to see if the salt load is being reduced.

    Preston and Kelting noted that using more sand isn’t the solution. Kelting said that before salt came into use, people had concerns about using sand.

    “Sand is not inert,” he said.

    “If the sand washes into the streams, it fills up the trout-spawning areas,” said Preston. “The sand has to get picked up.”

    Preston said his town’s highway workers have just finished removing sand from state and local roads.

    “Is it less harmful than salt? In my opinion, yes, but it needs to be picked up,” he said.

    During the forum’s question-and-answer period, a woman from the audience asked, “What do we do now? What should people whose wells are non-potable do?”

    The DOH’s Wilson responded, “Private wells are the responsibility of the homeowner.”

    By the #s:

    6,937,200 tons of road salt applied to roads in the Adirondacks since 1980

    192,700 tons applied in one year

    55% of that comes from the state, even though only about 25% of the roads are state highways

    10 tons of road salt per lane mile per year applied to town and county roads

    37 tons of road salt per lane mile per year applied to state roads


    Find the original article at this link:  http://www.adirondackdailyenterprise.com/news/local-news/2018/06/study-state-salt-pervades-water/


  • 31 May 2018 12:00 PM | AdkAction.org (Administrator)

    LAKE GEORGE — Road salt, an often problematic material for the health of Lake George, will be used less under a pilot program that will run this winter.

    The state Department of Transportation announced the new program Wednesday, which includes a number of practices meant to limit the amount of salt used. It will cover an approximately 17-mile stretch of Route 9N from the village of Lake George to the town of Bolton. The program is also being tested on Mirror Lake in Essex County.

    “At the Department of Transportation, safety is our highest priority, and salt has proven to be one of the most effective ways in maintaining a safe highway for the traveling public,” said Acting DOT Commissioner Paul Karas, in a release. “At the same time, we understand that there is a delicate balance between protecting the Adirondacks and maintaining safe highways for motorists.”

    Salt has been an increasing problem in Lake George, negatively affecting water quality, roadside vegetation and aquatic species, besides corroding people’s cars. A 2014 study by the Darrin Fresh Water Institute showed over 30 years a nearly three-fold increase in the level of salt. The Lake George Association’s Citizen Science Lake Assessment Program, too, has shown increases in salt and temperature readings.

    Dennis Dickinson, town supervisor of Lake George, has pushed for salt abatement along with many other local leaders and lake organizations.

    “(We’ve been) frustrated by the state’s lackluster response to salt abatement and are pleased in the last few weeks and months that they have been stepping up to the salt abatement program, especially around the lake,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday.

    Some of the practices highlighted in the pilot program include using brine for pre-storm anti-icing, using treated salt, using a plow truck with blade technologies to mechanically remove more ice and snow and using automatic vehicle location equipment that tracks salt application rates and calibrates salt-spreading equipment.

    The state will also conduct more monitoring of salt use, work with partners to monitor surface and groundwater quality and evaluate abrasives and abrasive mixes. The state will consider cutting back trees in specific locations to allow more sun to melt snow and ice on otherwise shaded roadways. Signs will be placed along the areas of the pilot program to alert motorists.

    The Transportation Department, the Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Health have established a working group that includes local municipalities and organizations, such as AdkAction and The Fund for Lake George-Lake George Waterkeeper, to evaluate the effectiveness of the pilot programs. Should they be successful, the practices could be used statewide.

    The Lake George Association said it has helped local public works departments use some of these best management practices already. It has also helped develop a model road management plan it hopes all the towns in the watershed will adopt.

    “We look forward to seeing the results of the state’s pilot program to reduce its salt application in the Lake George watershed,” said the association’s executive director, Walt Lender, in a statement to The Post-Star. “It is a problem the LGA has been working on for a decade.”

    For Dickinson, it’s a start. Ultimately he’d like to see Route 9N rebuilt, considering its storm water infrastructure is outdated and deteriorating. Storm water runoff can carry salt into the lake, along with other unwanted chemicals and nutrients.

    Reporter Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (518) 742-3238 or gcraig@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.


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