Sunday, March 10, 2019

91% of Hamilton Co Lakes Studied Affected by Road Salt

Preparing to collect water quality data from Fawn Lake Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute and the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District have collaborated on a study detailing long term trends of the water quality in 21 Hamilton County lakes.

“The State of Hamilton County Lakes: A 25 Year Perspective 1993 – 2017” was developed to deliver a countywide assessment of the current and historical water quality status and in hopes of guiding future watershed management decisions.

The Soil and Water District has been collecting this data for more than two decades with funding from New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund and the Finger Lakes-Lake Ontario Watershed Protection Alliance.

Hamilton County is home to approximately 4,500 year-round residents and is a summer vacation destination. Its waterbodies provide important sources for clean drinking water, recreation, and habitat for fish, wildlife and plants.

The study examined acidity, nutrient content, water clarity, dissolved oxygen and a number of other variables. The final report provides detailed individual lake reports for each lake in the study as well as a primer on lake science. Researchers at Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute analyzed the water samples and interpreted the results.

The lake study draws several conclusions, among them:

  • Lakes in Hamilton County are exhibiting a clear signal of recovery from acid deposition; however,  over 80% of the lakes showed a downward trend in transparency. The authors conclude that the reduction in transparency is likely related to changes in regional climate variables as well as recovery from acid deposition.
  • 91% of the study lakes were influenced by road salt. Wide spread use of salt on NYS routes 30, 28, and 8 have resulted in elevated concentrations of sodium and chloride in the water. Some lakes, such as Oxbow, Eight, and Blue Mountain have chloride concentrations that are 60 to 100 times greater than background levels.

Collecting water quality data from Fawn Lake

The report calls for sustained research and long term monitoring programs to understand lake ecology, particularly in the ever-growing shadow of human activities. To download a copy, click here.

Photos, from above: Preparing to collect water quality data from Fawn Lake courtesy Soil and Water Conservation District; Piseco Lake by Jamie Parslow; and Collecting water quality data from Fawn Lake courtesy Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Related Stories

Stories under the Almanack's Editorial Staff byline come from press releases and other notices.

Send news updates and story ideas to Alamanck Editor Melissa Hart at

8 Responses

  1. Smitty says:

    It would be helpful to know the actual concentrations of Na and Cl involved. Background concentrations in ADK rocks and therefore ADK waterways is very low so it is easy to detect any increase from road salt. But how does this compare with water quality standards? And is any increase, even at low levels, necessarily bad? Good too see that acid rain impacts are improving though. I hope this trend doesn’t reverse will planned rollbacks to air quality rules.

  2. Boreas says:


    The link provided has quite a bit of data, including trends. Perhaps raw data may be available?

    • Smitty says:

      Wow, that should keep me busy for awhile. Thanks, Boreas.

      • Caitlin Stewart says:

        Smitty and Boreas,

        Thank you for your comments. Raw data is available on the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District website at:

        Caitlin Stewart
        District Manager
        Hamilton County SWCD

        • Smitty says:

          Hamilton County is to be commended for doing such a comprehensive job monitoring the water quality of their lakes. Only by long term monitoring can we head off problems. So having reviewed the data, the water chemistry looks impressively good, especially the trend of increasing alkalinity. But yes, there is noticeably elevated chloride, particularly for the Fulton Chain lakes and those along major road corridors, up to 20 mg/l, but the chloride and sodium levels dont strike me as anything to be alarmed about and nothing like the 80 mg/l found in Mirror Lake and levels reported by Paul Smiths in groundwater wells next to salted roadways (exceeding drinking water standard of 250 mg/l). It’s good to keep monitoring but Adirondack Explorer article seems designed to alarm more than inform.

  3. Tim-Brunswick says:

    Wonder if anyone has done a study on how many “human lives” have been saved due to the application of salt on our highways over the years, etc. ?? That just might be a consideration when we are weighing the reduction/elimination of salt used to mitigate treacherous winter conditions on roadways used for daily travel and safe transportation of children to schools…..

    Thank you

    • Todd Eastman says:

      Thanks for the paleolithic perspective…

      … alternatively drivers could slow the fvck dowm!?

  4. Jim Blanchard says:

    I hope environmental groups would be more involved in the effort to stop the overuse of road salt in the Adirondacks!!

Wait! Before you go:

Catch up on all your Adirondack
news, delivered weekly to your inbox