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State will try to use less salt


June 8, 2018
The Post-Star, and the News staff , Lake Placid News

Road salt, an often problematic material for the health of Adirondack lakes, will be used less under a pilot program that will run this winter.

The state Department of Transportation announced the new program Wednesday, which includes a number of practices meant to limit the amount of salt used. It will be tested around Mirror Lake in Lake Placid and also cover an approximately 17-mile stretch of Route 9N from the village of Lake George to the town of Bolton.

"At the Department of Transportation, safety is our highest priority, and salt has proven to be one of the most effective ways in maintaining a safe highway for the traveling public," acting DOT Commissioner Paul Karas said in a release. "At the same time, we understand that there is a delicate balance between protecting the Adirondacks and maintaining safe highways for motorists."

Salt has been an increasing problem in these lakes, negatively affecting water quality, roadside vegetation and aquatic species, besides corroding people's cars. In Mirror Lake this spring, increased chloride levels prevented the natural turnover, in which the upper portions of lake water sink to the bottom, forcing the water on the bottom of a lake to rise to the top, according to the AuSable River Association's annual report on the waterbody.

"The disruption of this important physical process has the potential for a significant negative effect on aquatic life," the association wrote.

The village of Lake Placid has already reduced its use of road salt, tried salt alternatives and diverted stormwater runoff. These steps "resulted in much less salt building at the bottom of the lake," the association reported.

A 2014 study of Lake George by the Darrin Fresh Water Institute showed over 30 years a nearly three-fold increase in the level of salt. The Lake George Association's Citizen Science Lake Assessment Program, too, has shown increases in salt and temperature readings.

Some of the practices highlighted in the pilot program include using brine for pre-storm anti-icing, using treated salt, using a plow truck with blade technologies to mechanically remove more ice and snow and using automatic vehicle location equipment that tracks salt application rates and calibrates salt-spreading equipment.

The state will also conduct more monitoring of salt use, work with partners to monitor surface and groundwater quality, and evaluate abrasives and abrasive mixes. The state will consider cutting back trees in specific locations to allow more sun to melt snow and ice on otherwise shaded roadways. Signs will be placed along the areas of the pilot program to alert motorists.

The Transportation Department, the Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Health have established a working group that includes local municipalities and organizations, such as AdkAction and The Fund for Lake George-Lake George Waterkeeper, to evaluate the effectiveness of the pilot programs. Should they be successful, the practices could be used statewide.



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