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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Todd Miller says
It seems to me that the peer-reviewed report by Mr, Kelting (and co-sponsored by ADKAction) on the study of road salt contamination in wells in the Adirondacks in 2019 should have been been released to the public by now. I had hoped that this peer-reviewed report contains helpful data to guide the Salt Reduction Panel as well as provide valuable information to the public. Isn’t that what an Water Institute and an environmental organization suppose to do?
Just from reading this article, it appears to me that there may be more emphasis on surface water than groundwater, even though just about everyone in the Adirondacks relies on groundwater for a safe source of drinking water. Perhaps the Salt Reduction panel could use a member with more expertise on groundwater hydrology. A lot more could be done to minimize adverse affects of road salt in wells than just requiring a NA and CL water-quality test at time of home sales. What about everybody else not selling or buying their home? There are a lot of existing wells out there–just during the 20-yr period from 2000 to 2020, over 9,000 new drinking-water wells were drilled in the Adirondacks.
I’m sure that there will be more details available when the Salt Reduction Task Force releases it’s final recommendations, so we’ll have to wait and see what other groundwater remediation ideas are offered before commenting more.
When are we going to Mother Earth first. Oh my we can’t not have bare pavement in the winter!
I think the local NYS DOT plow and sanding operators should be trained in monitoring the local weather sites to get a better idea of temperature and precipitation forecasts. For years I have seen salt being applied to bare roads when it’s 40 degrees out or more and sometimes raining. Many times this is occurring when the local forecast calls for dropping temperatures 12 or more hours later in the day. By then the salt may have been applied two or three times and has been washed off by the rain and passing vehicles. Just my 2 cents.
Joe Kozlina says
When is road salt ,at any level, in our streams or creeks or rivers or wells a good idea? You need a study to do what? This just isnt an adirondack problem. Its a national problem. STOP PUTTING SALT IN OUR WATER SOURCES. Many other ways to travel in the winter months on our roads safely without salting and killing our fresh water. Money is at the root of all these studys. Who gets it and who does not. Ruining our fresh water is not at the root. If that was the case, the salting would stop tomorrow.
Harvey A Ward Jr says
Why did the use of sand/cinder salting of roads stop? It may have made vehicles dirtier but I think the roads were less slippery since roads spread with rust causing Calcium Chloride/Rock salt are more environmentally hazardous to no return/recovery of all forms of life giving water.