Thursday, August 19, 2021

Award-winning water reporting

road salt truck

One of the Adirondack Explorer’s priorities over the last couple of years has been to thoroughly explain the park’s hidden water quality issues, including the problems associated with New York State’s heavy use of road salt in winter. So it was a nice affirmation recently when the Society of Environmental Journalists honored that work, and reporter Ry Rivard, with an honorable mention.

Here’s what the judges wrote: “We awarded an Honorable Mention to the Adirondack Explorer and reporter Ry Rivard for dogged reporting on New York state’s overuse of salt on roads. The work was an impressive demonstration of how a tiny staff can carry out aggressive investigative oversight of issues valuable to the community. Rivard tracked down a mystery of what was killing crops, harming cows and poisoning wells in areas close to the roads. And he painstakingly documented, with very readable stories, how a decision to oversalt roads for the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics was never reversed, threatening the area’s pristine water. The series of stories helped prompt the New York legislature to call for reform of the practice.”

You can read about the awards, and all the great competition from around the country, at this link.

And, if you aren’t a subscriber and haven’t seen it before, you can find some of the work that went into the entry here and here.

That kind of dogged work is what we’ve invested in, and what we intend to continue. It also got Ry a job a Politico, but policy reporter Gwendolyn Craig has picked up the issue, most recently writing about how a task force that was supposed to make some recommendations by next month hasn’t even been appointed yet. We’ll continue following that story. It could take a while now, given the governor’s announcement that he will resign.

Photo: A state highway truck dumps road salt in Tupper Lake. Photo by Mike Lynch/Explorer file photo

Editor’s note: This first appeared in the Explorer’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

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Brandon Loomis is a former Adirondack Explorer editor.

4 Responses

  1. upstater says:

    Congratulations to Ry Rivard and the Almanack on this important issue. Looking forward to continued coverage by Gwendolyn Craig.

    The fact the legislature and Cuomo established a commission was really just kicking the can down the road for another 5 years. Not staffing the group says everything about the issue, doesn’t it?

    Brine costs money. Cleaning up the environment costs money. Use of “cheap” road salt are losses imposed on the commons.

  2. Zephyr says:

    Road salt is obviously a huge problem, but let’s hope the solutions aren’t worse. I think of all the chemical “solutions” for problems that have come back to haunt us later: PCBs, PFAS, DDT, etc. With the growing use of electric vehicles I suspect we will soon learn of all sorts of new problems with how road salt corrodes our cars, and the enormous batteries are spread all along the bottom of the car.

  3. Todd Miller says:

    Yes, congratulations to Ry and the Adirondack Almanac. I will miss Ry, but I’m also looking forward to his new replacement (when?). Salt isn’t cheap, but it is the least expensive option to keep roads de-iced and dry and safe to drive. Perhaps the State should follow salting procedures that are practiced by some local town highway depts–mixing relatively small amounts of salt (about 4-5%) with sand. It doesn’t completely rid the snow off the road but it appeared to me that it made roads safe to drive at about 40-45 mph. If the public is willing to drive a little slower on state roads too, it could be a reasonable compromise. However, I’d be nervous to see the results if someone surveyed the public on whether they’d be willing to put up with slightly less safe roads by applying mixed salt with sand on major roads and having to drive a little slower or whether they’d want the roads completely de-iced and dry and continue to drive at speeds 55 mph knowing full well that there’ll be significant environmental damage and some detrimental health consequences.

  4. Michael Sinclair says:

    EXCELLENT, Thanks, Brandon