By MIKE LYNCH
Lawmakers are working on legislation to address road salt application by state crews, Assemblyman Billy Jones told an audience Thursday at a road salt summit in Lake Placid.
“I want to let you rest assured. We are taking action on this. We need to take action on this,” Jones told the crowd.
Jones (D-Chateaugay) said even if the road salt use was stopped today “our aquifers are still damaged enough that it’s going to take years and years and years to get rid of the salt contamination in them, and many of you in here know that.”
He said he is working on the bill with fellow Assemblyman Dan Stec (R-Queensbury), and that Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) will sponsor a companion bill in the senate.
Jones declined to elaborate on the bill when asked by the Explorer for more details other than to say that the legislation is focused on coming up with recommendations that “will help the state and (state Department of Transportation) get the problem under control.”
“We’re going to give more details in a week or so,” he told the crowd. “We’re still working on the specifics.”
Road salt application and contamination has been in the spotlight for the last couple of years due to a study by Paul Smith College’s Adirondack Watershed Institute. AWI sampled nearly 500 Adirondack drinking wells, showing that two-thirds of wells downslope from state roads were polluted by sodium beyond the federally recommended health limit of 20 parts per million.
Most of the Adirondack salt, about 110,000 tons annually, is applied to state roads and highways, according to AWI.
ADK Action Executive Director Brittany Christenson, whose organization has worked to bring awareness to the road salt issue in recent years, appeared optimistic about the legislation.
“What I do know all sounds very promising,” she said. “It’s going to help build state buy-in in a way that is going to help us turn the corner on the issue.”
Executive Director Eric Siy said the issue has to be addressed at the local and state level and noted that the “state DOT needs to be a leader on this.”
“New York state is the single largest purchaser of road salt in North America. Not DOT specifically, but the state as a whole,” he said.
Siy’s organization has partnered with multiple organizations and governments to tackle the road salt issue in the Lake George region, where municipalities have been successful in reducing the amount of road salt applied to roads in recent years.
The Adirondack Champlain Regional Salt Summit took place at the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort in Lake Placid. The focus of the summit was to look at ways to maintain winter roads while reducing road salt. Attendees included state Department of Transportation officials, local highway department workers, industry experts, scientists, environmental groups, and elected officials. The fifth annual road salt summit was organized by The Fund for Lake George and Lake George Waterkeeper. Joining them as organizing sponsors this year were Lake Champlain Sea Grant, ADKAction and the Ausable River Association.
“We all want a good, safe, clean water. Not only for us, but for our children, and their children and generations and generations to come,” Jones said. “If we don’t take action on this the problem it’s only going to get worse, and we should not leave this issue to future generations. It’s not going away.”