Draft recommendations include improved tracking, new water quality standards, pilot studies
By Zachary Matson
A state panel focused on road salt use in the Adirondack Park plans to recommend adopting chloride water standards, requiring well testing at time of home sales, extending timelines for filing contamination claims and establishing a series of pilots aimed at reducing salt use.
The recommendations of the Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force, in draft form, are nearing completion by the panel and state agencies. On Friday, Adirondack Watershed Institute Executive Director Dan Kelting outlined the task force’s findings and draft proposals during the Adirondack Lakes Alliance Symposium at Paul Smith’s College.
Kelting said a final report could be published as soon as next month, a fast turnaround for the group appointed in December after months of delay. The task force was established through the Randy Preston Salt Reduction Act and charged with studying current winter road management, assessing salt contamination of Adironack waters and recommending training and education programs, pilot studies and best practices.
The draft recommendations include broad-based strategies to improve winter road maintence and data collection at the state, local and private levels and more specific policy proposals, including some that would require additional legislation or the creation of regulations.
The draft also calls for a dedicated funding source and a series of pilot projects focused on answering different questions about winter road strategies. The pilot studies would focus on chemical alternatives to road salt, no salt use in reduced speed zones, cutting trees in shaded roadspots to encourage better melting and the recovery of lakes with especially high chloride levels.
The task force and state agencies were still working to identify the best locations for the pilot programs, said Megan Phillips, Adirondack Park Agency deputy director of planning and a member of the task force.
Kelting said the panel would recommend the state adopt the current federal EPA standards for chloride concentrations in water, as well as set a management target for chloride concentrations of 10 parts per million in Adirondack surface waters, a level aimed at protecting aquatic life. The concentration levels of some Adirondack lakes are already higher than 20 parts per million and would be the focus of one of the pilot projects. Kelting estimated that reaching the chloride targets would require about a 50% reduction in salt use broadly.
The draft calls for creating both a training program for state and local road crews and a public education campaign about salt contamination and the need to reduce salt use. The recommendations will seek to strengthen tracking of how much salt is actually being applied to roads, a strategy considered a part of best practices but not widely used. Kelting said the lack of current salt application data also complicated the ability to set specific reduction targets.
“It’s a big problem,” Kelting said.
After the pilot studies are put in place, the task force will monitor the results and produce another report in two years. The draft recommendations also include the establishment of a permanent task force focused on road salt reduction.
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