Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Towns report success with road salt reduction strategies

Man in orange pointing at orange tank

Where’s the report from the Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force? Well, a Department of Transportation spokesperson last week said the agency expected “to complete and release it soon”—that’s the same response I got two months ago.

Meanwhile, a growing number of towns and counties across the park are already working to implement many of the best practices likely to be recommended in the report. Highway managers that once snuck out at night to add more salt to icy spots on their roads are now leading evangelists in the fight against salt pollution.

I went to Keeseville last week to listen in on a discussion of road managers from 10 local departments hosted by AdkAction. They geeked out about plow blades, brine mixing and more as the small nonprofit seeks to develop a networked approach to spreading salt reduction. 

A public comment period closed last week for the town of Lake Luzerne herbicide application with the Adirondack Park Agency. The southeastern Adirondack town hopes to use ProcellaCOR—the herbicide at the center of ongoing litigation in Lake George—to kill invasive Eurasian watermilfoil on 32 acres in the lake’s near-shore littoral zone.

The town’s application is expected to go before the APA board at its May meeting. While many Lake Luzerne residents expressed support for the herbicide plan, the Adirondack Council and Protect the Adirondacks both submitted letters outlining what they argue are unanswered questions about the herbicide’s safety.

In particular, the groups point out that the herbicide has been shown to negatively impact native aquatic plants, especially native milfoils. They also say there has not been sufficient research into how it will impact the broader ecology of Adirondack lakes, including zooplankton, phytoplankton, macroinvertebrates and fish.

“We believe it is incumbent on the Agency to gather more data to understand what the longer-term impacts of this newer herbicide may be in order to act in a precautionary manner,” the Council wrote. “If, in a few years, data confirms the low impact nature of this chemical treatment, then the Council would re-examine supporting such a treatment.”

APA last year granted a permit to the Lake George Park Commission to use the herbicide, but that permit was ultimately annulled by a Warren County Supreme Court judge, who questioned the APA approval process. The state is appealing that decision while Lake George’s herbicide plans are on hold. The advocacy groups have also seized on the herbicide applications to call on APA to break a 12-year hiatus from holding adjudicatory hearings to gather more information about a proposal.

Will the Council or Protect take its opposition to the Lake Luzerne application as far as the courthouse? Time will tell.

“Without the benefit of fully developed record that would be produced during a formal adjudicatory hearing on the proposal, Protect the Adirondacks is opposed to the Agency granting the application for ProcellaCOR treatment on Lake Luzerne,” Protect wrote in its comments.

Photo at top: Peru Town Highway Supervisor Mike Farrell shows off a new brine spreader that has been central to the department’s efforts to reduce its road salt use. Photo by Zachary Matson

This first appeared in 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.

4 Responses

  1. Ernest Keet says:

    NYSDOT has tried to control and has delayed this report long enough. The task force is independent with real expert members. It is clear that DOT does not like conclusions and has been trying to suppress, bury, or weaken them, hoping the public will forget how important the salt pollution issue is. Write or call your state assembly or senate reps to demand a release of the unabridged report.

    • Rob says:

      Maybe they should go back to just using sand like a lot of towns and counties use. Won’t help melt snow and ice off the roads but it will give you traction for driving. Then no worries about what the salt is doing. Plus would keep the roads packed with snow for the snowmobiles to traverse the area.

  2. Todd Eastman says:

    Please edit…😱

  3. Helen Allen Nerska says:

    And congratulations to the Town of Peru for being one of the first, if not the first, to reduce road salt so successfully this past winter.

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