Monday, March 14, 2022

Road salt task force meets; Pitcairn residents deal with salty well water

pitcairn road salt

Members of the state task force charged with reducing salt use in the Adirondack Park met for the first time Monday and showed that they won’t steer away from thorny topics.

From discussing tree cutting along roads (which in some places could require a constitutional amendment) to potential winter tire mandates or lower speed limits, members raised numerous complicated challenges that underscored the task ahead.

Read about the inaugural meeting. 

The meeting was substantiative and the expert panel showed off its broad experience and deep knowledge. Road crew managers. Scientists. Community advocates. Lawyers. They agreed on the depth of the challenge and a committed urgency and expressed the personal nature of the health and environmental impacts at stake.

State officials showed that they are taking the task force seriously, bringing top agency leaders to the table and highlighting the urgency of a Sept. 1 deadline and complexity of balancing road safety and water quality.

But they also appeared to stumble on the open meetings law. After a fruitful 90-minute discussion, the panel signed off the public Zoom and onto another private link for what was called a “work session.” A facilitator said they would get into the “nitty gritty.” The Committee on Open Government said the panel should be operating as public body required to operate in open except under narrow exceptions (nitty-gritty work sessions not among them).

There will be more public meetings in the future and state leaders said they hoped there would be in-person opportunities to come. We will keep up with their work.

Well-water woes

A handful of residents in Pitcairn on the western edge of the Adirondack Park get their drinking water delivered in plastic water bottles on Thursday – courtesy of the state’s coffers.

The residents also live right next door to a state Department of Transportation salt shed.

Dating to the early 2000s, drinking water in the area tested above standards for sodium and chloride. The state said it would pay for water bottle deliveries as a “temporary measure only” and promised to discontinue the deliveries if it determined the source of the salt pollution was not the state.

Meanwhile, a similar problem of salt-contaminated wells (and water bottles on the state tab) near Dannemora was finally resolved after the state paid to hook those properties into the Clinton Correctional Facility water system.

You can read about the long struggles Adirondack residents face trying to improve their salty water in our latest magazine or on our website.

Photo at top of Pitcairn by Brandon Loomis

Editor’s note: This is compiled from recent editions of Zach’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

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Zachary Matson has been an environmental reporter for the Explorer since October 2021. He is focused on the many issues impacting water and the people, plants and wildlife that rely on it in the Adirondack Park. Zach worked at daily newspapers in Missouri, Arizona and New York for nearly a decade, most recently working as the education reporter for six years at the Daily Gazette in Schenectady.

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