Saturday, July 23, 2022

Adirondack Watershed Institute wins grants to study road salt pollution and green infrastructure improvements

PAUL SMITHS (July 21, 2022) –Officials at Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute (AWI) announced it was recently awarded two research grants from the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP). The first grant will help scientists and policy makers understand the extent of road salt pollution in Lake Champlain. The second grant will support AWI scientists to assess the effectiveness of recent stormwater upgrades in Lake Placid to improve water quality in Mirror Lake.
Road salt is as a significant source of pollution in the Lake Champlain Basin, which includes 11 sub-basins drained from major tributaries in New York, Vermont, and Quebec including the Saranac, Ausable, Winooski, Missisquoi, and Lamoille Rivers. With the generous support of the LCBP, AWI scientists will compile existing data from all water bodies within the Lake Champlain Basin to determine what is driving sodium and chloride levels. As a result, scientists will have a better understanding of the extent and cause of road salt pollution in the basin, which will help inform long-term practices to reduce road salt and protect the environment.
“We look forward to working with LCBP to understand long-term changes, their causes, and the trajectory of sodium and chloride concentrations in the Lake Champlain Basin,” said Dr. Brendan Wiltse, senior research scientist for AWI and Principal Investigator for both grants. “As a result, New York and Vermont decision makers will be better informed to make management decisions that benefit the environment and the public.”
“New York State recently passed the Randy Preston Road Salt Reduction Act,” said Dr. Dan Kelting, executive director for AWI and an appointed member of the Governor’s Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force. “The research grant we recently secured will help inform similar policy decisions in Vermont and Quebec”.
The second grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program will allow AWI and its partners at the Ausable River Association to assess the effectiveness of stormwater upgrades around Mirror Lake in Lake Placid.
Mirror Lake has one of the most developed watersheds on the New York side of the Lake Champlain Basin. For many years, stormwater runoff from around Mirror Lake has flowed directly to the lake. The Village of Lake Placid is currently amid a two-year multimillion-dollar construction project to improve the sewer and stormwater systems below Main Street, including the construction of three large underground retention basins that will receive stormwater runoff and allow percolation into the ground, resulting in a slow-release to Mirror Lake. These new systems are a substantial improvement over the current systems.
Stormwater runoff can have significant impacts on waterbodies like Mirror Lake. Runoff that moves over impervious surfaces, such as parking lots, sidewalks, and roads, picks up road salt, sediment, petroleum products and other toxins. The untreated water is discharged into waterbodies, causing excess pollution in the environment.
“AWI will leverage years of long-term water quality monitoring data from Mirror Lake to understand how well the new stormwater system is preventing pollutants, like road salt, from entering the lake in high concentrations,” said Wiltse. “After the infrastructure improvements are complete, AWI will start collecting new water quality data, and we expect to see improvements as a result of this large-scale project.”
“We commend the Village of Lake Placid for taking measures to improve management of its stormwater runoff,” said Kelting. “This study will help municipalities understand how investing in green infrastructure can benefit the health and safety of people, wildlife, and aquatic ecosystems.”
The mission of the Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Protect is to protect clean water, conserve habitat, and support the health and well-being of people in the Adirondacks through science, collaboration, and real-world experiences for students. More can be found on

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4 Responses

  1. Todd Miller says:

    I’m glad to hear that Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute (AWI) announced it was awarded two research grants to study the extent of road salt pollution in Lake Champlain and in Mirror Lake. However, I hope the AWI doesn’t repeat it’s poor record of the peer-reviewed groundwater report on the results of the 2019 well sampling investigation by which still not been released and neither AWI nor ADK Action (co-sponsor) have responded to requests on the status of this late report. What has been the holdup?–it’s been three years since the water sampling of wells had been conducted. It would be valuable for the public and the Safe Roads Partnership to have this peer-reviewed report available for transparency purposes and for guidance on evaluating the extent of the problem and developing remedial practices.

  2. Daniel L Kelting says:

    The results of the well study have been shared publicly in several presentation across the region to various stakeholder groups, so the information is out there and it is also being used to inform the Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force. Still, you are correct that we haven’t produced a peer reviewed report but it our goal to do so.

  3. Todd Miller says:

    Thank you for your reply. I am aware that you have shared with the public some of aspects of your salt study of wells in the Adirondacks in powerpoints. However, you know and I know that the purpose of powerpoints are designed to provide the salient points of a study, not the details of the methods of study, spreadsheets or lengthy tables of data, or dwell at length on interpretations and analyses. Since this was a scientific study, it should have had a timely peer-report as a product. The purpose of peer-reviews are to check the quality of the study design, your thinking, the data (in this case, the water-quality analyses and well records), and your analyses or interpretations. In addition, inquisitive readers–whether they are shareholders or the general public, may also want to look at these details of the study to judge themselves the quality of the study and report. Obviously, I’m disappointed that you have not provided a timely peer-reviewed report nor provided any estimated date when you plan to do so. I hope that in your presentations that you, at least, have qualified your results stating that they are tentative and subject to changes based on a peer reviews (and provide an estimated date when you expect to have a completed peer-reviewed report). I’m especially interested how you plan to use the results of your study to propose effective remedial action for all Adirondack well owners, not just those selling and buying a home.

  4. Sara says:

    Thanks for sharing, hope the research find some ways to decrease the stormwater pollution by road salt.

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