The region’s efforts to reduce road salt gained statewide attention on Wednesday, when representatives from municipalities across New York attended an informational session seeking advice on how to bring similar salt-reduction programs to their localities.
More than 120 people signed up for the free informational session, sponsored by The Fund for Lake George, including highway superintendents from Westchester, Yates and Lewis counties.
The event included a 30-minute video, which documented how Warren County and the towns of Lake George and Hague have been able to reduce road salt by using a salt brine, saving the municipalities thousands of dollars on road salt and employee expenses annually.
“Road salt is one of our top priorities. Why? Because it’s a nationwide crisis,” said Eric Siy, the executive director of The Fund. “It’s considered to be the acid rain of our time.”
Siy said 48 billion pounds of road salt are applied to roadways throughout the country each year, which then enters waterways, contaminating drinking water and harming local ecosystems.
Lake George, he added, has been no exception.
The lake has salt levels 30 times higher than undeveloped lakes in the Adirondacks, and up to 200 times higher in certain streams that feed into the lake.
The sodium chloride levels in the lake have been on the rise in recent years, though they remain below the state’s allowable threshold for contamination.
To keep it that way, The Fund, a science-driven organization that works to preserve Lake George, has partnered with municipalities throughout Warren County by investing over $550,000 to purchase equipment and provide the necessary training to implement brine programs in a bid to preserves the lake’s water quality.
The efforts have not only reduced the amount of road salt entering the lake, but have saved the municipalities thousands of dollars on road salt expenses and personnel expenses annually.
Thousands of gallons of brine can be produced at little cost and can help save thousands of dollars in operating expenses because the treatment melts snow and ice that piles up on roadways.
In Lake George, the town has saved over 50% in road salt expenses annually, said Dennis Dickinson, the town’s supervisor.
“Fifty percent was a very noticeable milestone, and that’s the thing, I think, that got everybody excited,” he said.
Calls to reduce the use of road salt have been steadily gaining traction in recent years, particularly in the Adirondacks, where protected waterways have experienced increased levels of sodium chloride.
Drinking wells have also been contaminated due to road salt entering the water table.
Last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Act, which established a salt reduction pilot program that will run from October through 2024 and explore different ways to keep roadways clear in the winter, including salt brine.
Siy said the state and local governments have been an excellent partner in their salt reduction efforts, but noted the private sector also has a role to play.
Driveways and parking lots are major contributors to salt use and must also be reduced, Siy said.
“This is an all-in, all-out effort,” he said. “It’s not going to be simply reducing the use on our roads. It’s everything from sidewalks to parking lots, which are a huge contributor.”
To watch the video presentation shown at Wednesday’s event, visit: salt.fundforlakegeorge.org.
Chad Arnold is a reporter for The Post-Star covering the city of Glens Falls and the town and village of Lake George and Washington County government. Follow him on Twitter @ChadGArnold.