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Salt summit gets shakin'

'Salt summit' is a great idea

Daniel Gilliland of SnowEx talks about the different nozzles of the SnowEx Brine PRO 2000 Monday, Oct. 24 during the 2nd annual Save the Lake Salt Summit at the Fort William Henry Conference Center in Lake George.

LAKE GEORGE — It is going to take a sustained effort to reduce the amount of salt going into Lake George, including changes in expectations, procedures and equipment.

Nearly 100 people learned about the latest technology and best practices in snow removal at the second annual “Salt Summit.” Public works officials, elected officials and environmental experts attended the event Monday, which was organized by the Fund for Lake George and held at the Fort William Henry Conference Center.

Interest in reducing the salt flow into the lake is increasing, according to Eric Siy, executive director of the Fund for Lake George. Among the attendees at the conference was the director of operations for the New York Department of Transportation.

“It’s really a team effort. If we don’t have all these players participating and coming together, we cannot win on this issue,” Siy said.

Jim Sutherland, a retired DEC staff member who consults for the Fund for Lake George, spoke about the research he has done on Finkle Brook in Bolton, which is part of the Lake George watershed.

He said the stream’s chloride levels increase 150-fold between its source and its outflow into the lake.

High salt levels help the invasive zebra mussel thrive, according to Sutherland.

The Fund for Lake George is conducting a bigger study to look at 14 locations in the Lake George watershed.

Brittany Christenson, executive director of AdkAction, said among the costs of road salt are corrosion of personal and highway vehicles and infrastructure.

Corrosion of cars costs people about $11.7 billion each year, she said. About 15 percent of the 583,000 bridges in the United States are structurally deficient because of corrosion, and it will cost $3.8 billion to replace those bridges and $4.5 billion to maintain them.

Demonstrations of some of the latest technology to reduce salt use was part of the summit. The village of Lake George is one of the few communities to have what is called a “live edge” plow, with a blade that is essentially perpendicular to the ground.

Paul Vanderzon, of Metal Pless, demonstrated how the truck works, with six smaller stainless steel blades that help grind up the snow, scraping off snow and ice right down to the road.

“Let’s get as much snow removed from the pavement, then we can use less salt,” he said.

The blades are able to move left and right and up and down, according to Vanderzon.

“It allows us to get that clean scrape. When it hits something it just folds back,” he said.

The plow costs about $19,500, but money can be saved by having to do fewer passes of streets, according to Vanderzon.

Another approach is to use a liquid brine salt solution instead of just straight salt.

Ronald G. Eckman, a specialist with Deicing Depot, showed off a truck in which a computer controls the administering of the brine solution.

“If you’re going 5 miles per hour or you’re going 15 miles per hour, the same application is coming out,” he said.

Daniel Gilliland of SnowEx showed off his hopper to make brine, which is just a water solution that is about 23 percent concentrated with salt. 

“Using brine is about 5 to 25 times less expensive than using rock salt,” he said.

Officials also learned some tips from Paul Brown, snow and ice engineer with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

Brown said using less salt requires a culture change. Transportation officials want to provide safe roads, but that does not mean they need to get the road down to black pavement. They changed their philosophy in Massachusetts to mean that the roads should be “reasonably safe.”

Among his suggestions are for crews to get out early, pre-treat roads with a brine salt solution and calibrate the plowing equipment.

“You can’t do business like we used to, because you’re not going to get better results. You’re going to get the same as before,” he said.

Dave Wick, executive director of the Lake George Park Commission, led a discussion of efforts done so far. Bolton and Hague have two new salt storage sheds. The village is working with the town of Lake George to get a new shed on town-owned properties. Several municipalities and the state Department of Transportation are using alternative products such as Magic Salt.

Wick said it is a tough balancing act between being environmentally responsible and having safe roads that will please local residents.

“You’ll never get a complaint if you oversalt the roads,” he said.

Bob Winans, of the state Transportation Department, said the department pre-treats its roads with brine, which has both economic and environmental benefits.

“The less salt we use, the less salt we buy, the less salt that ends up in the water supply,” he said.

Raqib Omer, founder and chief executive officer of Viaeyes, a transportation systems company, presented results of a study he did for the Fund for Lake George about salt use.

It was a light winter, but they were still able to collect some data. Use of salt is all over the board.

“We were able to tell that things were consistently inconsistent, which means that there’s tremendous room for improvement,” Omer said.

You can read Michael Goot’s blog “A Time to Learn” at or his updates on Twitter @ps_education.


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