New law aimed at monitoring salt use on Adirondack roads

Published: Dec. 4, 2020 at 7:08 PM EST
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SARANAC LAKE, N.Y. (WCAX) - New York just passed a bill to monitor how road crews in the Adirondacks use salt on the roads. Kelly O’Brien explains why and how this research will be accomplished.

The snow has started to fall and that means the plow trucks will be back on the roads. Governor Andrew Cuomo late Wednesday signed into law the Randy Preston Salt Reduction Act, a measure that aims to protect Adirondack watersheds from excess salt use while keeping roads safe.

Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay Lake, was a co-sponsor of the bill. “This will make change. This will make change in the Adirondacks, this will make change for our residents and our environment,” he said.

The bill is named after former Wilmington Town Supervisor and Adirondack enthusiast Randy Preston, who died in July 2019. “He would be so honored and so humbled,” Preston’s wife, Michelle.

Jones says Preston was one of the many supporters of using less salt in the winter. “We have known for years and years and decades now the corrosive effects that salt has had on our environment,” he said.

According to Adirondack Watershed Institute, the state has dumped 7 million tons of salt on roads in New York over the last 50 years. “It’s not on the roads. It washed off the roads and went into the soil, and some of it made it to the watershed,” said the Institute’s Dan Kelting.

The new law aims to change that by calling on a 14-member task force of environmental groups, scientists, state and local highway officials, and lawmakers to create a pilot project for the Adirondack Park.

“I’m sure there are other areas in the state that are going to want to copy us,” said Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, a co-sponsor on the law.

The task force will collect data from the Adirondacks, monitor salt use, and watch its impact on the environment. “Salt concentration in our surface water, our streams, and lakes which has consequences for our ecosystems. But more importantly, in terms of human health, significant groundwater pollution from road salting,” Kelting said.

The task force will be tasked to come up with solutions to keep the roads and waterways safe. “You might be impacted, it might take you a little longer to get somewhere,” said Sen. Little, “but if we are keeping our lakes and rivers and streams clean that is key for our economy and environment as well.”

The task force is set to convene in 2021.

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