Pilot program bill to reduce road salt use in the Adirondacks on its way to Gov. Cuomo

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- A bi-partisan bill is on its way to Governor Andrew Cuomo that would reduce the amount of road salt used in order to keep salt out of drinking water in the Adirondacks. The bill would create a pilot program aimed at using less costly alternatives to salt while focusing on highway safety.

The Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force and Pilot Program would begin in October 2021 to wrap up in 2024. It would also use practices proven to be more effective than rock salt.

The bill was passed in honor of former Wilmington Town Supervisor, Randy Preston, who drummed up local government support to protect waterways in the Adirondack Park from road salt pollution. Preston died a year ago from brain cancer.

“Drinking water across the Adirondacks has been compromised by road salt contamination. Our testing shows a strong correlation between (the) salty water and state-maintained highways. The state is applying about 37 tons of salt per road lane mile right now. That is not sustainable from an environmental and human health perspective,” said Dan Kelting from the Adirondack Watershed Institute.

In a multi-part series, News10 ABC reported on the harmful effects of rock salt usage including that of Mirror Lake which had become so polluted by salt that it no longer turned over in the spring preventing oxygen from being redistributed. After a coordinated effort to reduce road salt usage in and around Mirror Lake, it turned over this spring.

“Mirror Lake is one of just a handful of lakes that has had the natural turnover process interrupted by an accumulation of salt at the bottom of the lake,” said Dr. Brendan Wiltse of the Ausable River Association. The lack of turnover results in low-oxygen at the lake bottom, threatening the native lake trout found in the lake and making it more susceptible to harmful algal blooms.”

 “Salt-contaminated drinking water is a serious public health hazard for people with high blood pressure and other health conditions. When it strikes a private well, that can become a costly crisis for local families as they need to buy bottled water and replace appliances, pipes, and even drill a new well. As salt contamination gets worse, it can affect entire community water supplies. We have seen salt damage spread too far already,” said Brittany Christenson from AdkAction.

After maintenance and repairs, the estimated cost of using road salt is more than $18,000 a year per land-mile. Maintenance, repair, and depreciation of motor vehicles due to road salt are estimated to cost $3,416 a year per land-mile.

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