Conservation organizations and communities are looking at a variety of options for reducing road salt, including improved technology on salt trucks, improved monitoring of road conditions, and the use of alternatives to salt.
David Wick, executive director of the Lake George Park Commission, said the towns of Lake George, Bolton, and Queensbury and the village of Lake George will experiment with using a brine — a solution of road salt and water — this winter. Brine is applied to roads prior to winter storms to reduce the formation of ice and hence the amount of salt that must be applied after the storm.
The third annual salt summit held earlier this fall was sponsored by the Fund for Lake George and brought together property maintenance contractors, highway superintendents and the public employees who apply de-icing agents to roads, driveways and parking lots, along with environmentalists, scientists, and public officials.
Eric Siy, executive director of the Fund for Lake George, said at a conference in October that thirty years of research has shown that the lake is getting more salty.
“It’s an issue that has gone unaddressed for literally decades, and now is the time [to address it],” Siy said. “With the science we now have in hand, we can solve the problem.”
Every winter, thirteen tons of road salt are applied per lane-mile to roadways in the Lake George watershed, a total of nine thousand tons a year, according to the Fund. The amount of salt in the lake nearly tripled between 1980 and 2009.
Jim Sutherland, a science adviser for the Fund, said if all road salting had ended in 2009, it still would have taken until 2040 for salt levels in the watershed to return to normal.
North Elba snowplow workers tend to the sand/salt road de-icer in Lake Placid. Photo by Nancie Battaglia