Posts Tagged ‘Road Salt’

Friday, October 21, 2022

Clean Water Act turns 50

Lake Champlain continues to be impacted by non-regulated runoff. Explorer file photo.

Fifty years ago this week, federal lawmakers overrode a presidential veto to enact the Clean Water Act, a landmark law for the nation’s water quality.

The iconic image of the Cuyahoga River on fire in Ohio spurred congressional action and ushered in a half century of major river restorations across the nation. The goals outlined in the act included restoring the country’s water to a “fishable and swimmable” state.

The law imposed new permitting requirements on polluting industries and sewage treatment plants, but it failed to address diffuse pollution from storm and agricultural runoff, the largest source of pollution in many parts of the country. The standards adopted under the law in many places are now decades old or unable to address emerging problems.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, August 11, 2022

Preview of Salt Panel Recommendations

lower st. regis lake

The Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force is nearing completion of its first round of work and a report on its findings and recommendations could be available in the coming month.

During the first Adirondack Lakes Alliance symposium in recent years, Adirondack Watershed Institute Executive Director Dan Kelting previewed the panel’s recommendations. Here’s a look at some of what he said was included in recent drafts:

» Continue Reading.


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.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 18, 2022

A salty solution

hague

The salt pollution challenge can be daunting: years and years of salt use have already penetrated surface and groundwater and will stick around for years to come. And salt is still the No. 1 way of keeping winter roads safe.

But the small highway crew in Hague, on the western shores of Lake George has started to show that if you use less salt on the roads, less salt will show up in the water. After the Hague crew reduced its salt use by nearly 70% over the last five years, researchers with RPI’s Darrin Fresh Water Institute have found an average 4% annual reduction in chloride concentrations in Hague Brook. More study is needed but it’s a positive sign that Hague is reducing salt on the roads and in the waters.

Read more about what Hague has been up to and my recent visit to their garage. I also spoke with North Country Public Radio Adirondacks reporter Emily Russell this week about the latest on the state’s road salt reduction task force.

The road salt issue has also started to draw more national coverage in recent weeks after a scientific research review published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment highlighted the dire public health and environmental downsides of rampant salt use – which has tripled in the last 45 years.

Photo: Hague plow operator Tim Fiallo mixing a brine solution at the Hague garage. Photo by Zachary Matson

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


Monday, January 3, 2022

Ausable River Association Announces Salt Survey for Lake Placid

mirror lake

WILMINGTON — The Ausable River Association (AsRA) will distribute a salt use survey this winter to residents, businesses, and independent contractors in Lake Placid. Developed with our partners at the Adirondack Watershed Institute, the survey is essential to determining the amount of salt entering Mirror Lake and the Chubb River. Funded by the Lake Champlain Basin Program through a multi-year technical grant, it’s another piece of our ongoing science-based effort to find a solution to road salt contamination in these waterways.

The salt survey is specific to residents and business in the Chubb River watershed. The watershed encompasses the area surrounding Lake Placid and includes the Village of Lake Placid. Completing the survey will take approximately 5-20 minutes, depending on the size of the area that you care for in your winter maintenance.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 16, 2021

Hochul names road salt task force members

road salt truck

Overdue panel charged with preventing further pollution

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday named the members of a promised state task force charged with studying road salt use in the Adirondacks.

The 10 overdue appointees announced by the governor will join representatives from the state Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Health and Adirondack Park Agency as they set out to review current salt use practices and make recommendations to minimize future use.

The governor’s direct nominees include former DEC Commissioner Joe Martens; Adirondack Watershed Institute Executive Director Dan Kelting; Megan Phillips, vice president of conservation at the Adirondack Council; and Kristine Stepeneck, a professor at the University of Vermont.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 16, 2021

A blown deadline

Billy Jones salt bill

By the Times Union editorial board

Nonexistent task forces have a 100 percent track record of not issuing reports by deadline. So in that sense, the state’s road salt panel is doing exactly what New Yorkers expected of it.

Under the 2020 legislation establishing it, the task force was supposed to study the impact of road salt in the Adirondacks and come up with a pilot plan for reducing it, reporting to the Legislature by Dec. 1, 2021 – as in, weeks ago.

What’s at stake here? Oh, only public health, the environment, and the Adirondack economy. Excess road salt poisons the wells that North Country residents drink from. It degrades farmland, fouls lakes, desiccates trees.

Yes, things have been a bit … chaotic in the Executive Chamber this year. But in the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, long appointment delays and other forms of foot-dragging were a feature, not a bug. Skeptics might speculate that for Mr. Cuomo, the announcement of a plan of action was more important than its implementation.

All of the panel’s members have now been recommended, state officials say, and appointments are in the process of being finalized. We know Gov. Kathy Hochul is catching up on a backlog on empty positions. Prioritizing this process will be a significant way her administration can differentiate itself from its predecessor. State government needs to get moving on this important issue, collecting data transparently and thoroughly, and – at the most basic level – doing what it said it was going to do.

Editor’s note: This originally ran Dec. 13 in the (Albany) Times Union. Used by permission.

Photo: NYS Assemblyman Billy Jones speaks Dec. 4, 2020, at a commemoration of the signing of the Randy Preston Road Salt Reduction Act. More than 10 months later, the task force created by the bill is still without members. Mike Lynch photo

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Salt solutions?

Billy Jones salt bill

Lake George has been a leader in road salt reduction and now some of those lessons will be coming north.

Wilmington Supervisor Roy Holzer, who attended the sixth annual Lake George road salt reduction summit last week, said his town has applied for a grant that would pay for cameras on the Whiteface Highway, a steep climb out of the hamlet to elevations where it can snow before it does down below. But not always. With cameras, plow drivers can open an app and assess conditions before driving up and salting a road that may not need it. Salt pollution has been recognized as a threat both to the environment and public health.

Essex County Department of Public Works Director Jim Dugan said some methods used further south, such as brining the highway, aren’t as effective in the mountains where it’s colder. But that doesn’t mean local governments are powerless.

Dugan said the county, with a $750,000 state grant and a $250,000 match, is building a shed to keep its stores of sand under roof. Before it’s stockpiled, salt has to be mixed into the sand to keep it from freezing into unspreadable chunks. Dougan said the shelter will keep the sand dry, and greatly reduce the ratio of salt to sand.

Dugan said he would also like to be allowed to cut trees in the highway right of way to let in the ice-melting sun, but even though environmentalists agree this is an important strategy, in the Forest Preserve that’s not allowed.

Holzer follows the late Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston, for which road salt reduction law is named.

“I certainly feel an obligation to carry through with his mission, and I feel like Wilmington is leading change in the North Country,” Holzer said. Smart salt law can strike a balance between safety and the environment, while saving taxpayer money by reducing the need to purchase salt, he said.

NYS Assemblyman Billy Jones speaks Dec. 4, 2020, at a commemoration of the signing of the Randy Preston Road Salt Reduction Act. More than 10 months later, the task force created by the bill is still without members. Mike Lynch photo 

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


Saturday, October 2, 2021

Annual Regional Road Salt Reduction Summit coming up Oct. 14

road salt truck

Municipalities, businesses and not-for-profit organizations interested in learning how to keep roads, driveways and parking areas safe this winter while reducing the cost and environmental consequences of road salt use are invited to attend the 2021 Adirondack Champlain Regional Salt Summit, Thursday, Oct. 14, from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Fort William Henry Hotel and Conference Center in Lake George. Online attendance will also be available for those unable to travel to the Summit. Registration is free for all attendees.

This year’s Summit will be the 6th annual gathering focused on best practices for reducing road salt use, and will feature progress on road salt reduction in the Lake George region. It is presented by the Lake George Association, which spearheads the Lake George Road Salt Reduction Initiative, and Lake Champlain Sea Grant. The agenda will include:


Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Unfinished business

boat stewards

Sometimes in the environmental protection field there’s a celebration of achievements before they’re fully realized. Case in point: We recently reported that a state road salt task force that was celebrated as a potential win for Adirondack water quality was not actually a done deal, as the governor has yet to appoint its members.

When the governor announced his resignation, another such premature victory came to light: The state’s new boat inspection law to prevent movement of invasive species in the park’s waters still awaits a governor’s signature. We reported on that law’s passage months ago, but technically, it’s not reality yet.

Environmental groups are hopeful that incoming Gov. Kathy Hochul will finish the job. The Adirondack Council’s Willie Janeway said this about it in a news release: “Many of the state’s functions inside the Adirondack Park have ground to a halt as the executive branch of government succumbed to administrative paralysis while the current Governor attempted to defend his actions. As Kathy Hochul becomes governor, the entire state will have an opportunity to heal and make progress again.”

It’s important work, as is the road salt study, septic and sewage management and proposed new surveys of park lakes’ changing ecology. We’ll see how the new governor approaches these problems.

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

Photo courtesy of Adirondack Watershed Institute


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.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Regulating road salt like acid rain

Several decades ago, acid rain in the Adirondacks helped direct the nation’s attention to new kinds of air pollution.

Despite the local environmental protections here, acids were being carried from coal-fired power plants elsewhere in the country by the atmosphere and falling into Adirondack lakes and streams, killing off fish. The regulatory boundary protecting the park’s forests and wetlands from development and logging weren’t going to stop that.

A national problem needed a national solution. So, in 1990, Congress updated the Clean Air Act to crack down on polluters.

A recent paper, authored by researchers at the University of Maryland, argues that salt pollution, including pollution from road salt, may be so ubiquitous that it now needs such a national solution. “Ultimately,” the paper says, “there may be a need for regulations similar to the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, which were enacted to address pollution from acid rain.”

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, February 27, 2021

Money for Lake Champlain water quality projects

lake champlain bridgeRecently, I wrote about the Adirondack Council asking the state to fund a wide-ranging study of water quality across the Adirondacks. (Speaking of the Council, it just hired someone away from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office to be its new vice president for conservation.)

I’ve been thinking about how much the public conversation is influenced by money — not just advertising and p.r., but money or lack of money for research.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

AdkAction awarded funding for road salt reduction program

AdkAction was recently awarded $50,000 from the Lake Champlain Basin Program. The grant is for a newly formed “Clean Water, Safe Roads” partnership, which will work to reduce salt pollution along the 125-mile-long lake between New York and Vermont. Together with partners from Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute and Lake Champlain Sea Grant, the project partners intend to enact an in-depth and personalized outreach and education program to municipal highway departments in the Lake Champlain Basin Area.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 10, 2020

Passing the salt

After a $3 billion state bond to fund climate change projects fell apart because of the pandemic economy, a lot of environmental policy attention up here turned to a bill that would study the damage caused in the Adirondacks by road salt.

We’ve reported this year on that damage. Salt threatens human health and property values.

The road salt bill was introduced last winter in Saranac Lake.

Its Senate sponsor, Sen. Betty Little, a North Country Republican, made sure it moved by working with Sen. Tim Kennedy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate’s transportation committee.  He put his name atop the bill in Little’s place and gave the bill a better chance of passing. It cleared the Senate and state Assembly this summer.

Then, crickets.

» Continue Reading.



Wait, before you go,

sign up for news updates from the Adirondack Almanack!