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  • 07 Dec 2020 7:34 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Where's my plow? Ontario 511 app allows motorists to track snowplows on highways in Ottawa and eastern Ontario (

    Looking for information on snowplow operations on Highway 417, Highway 416 and Highway 401 during the first significant snowfall of the year – there's an app for that!

    Ontario's 511 app includes information on the location of snowplows and salt trucks on provincial highways and road conditions. 

    The Ontario Government announced the Ontario 511 app has been expanded in time for winter to include features for drivers and the trucking industry to plan trips.

    The Ontario 511 app includes "Track My Plow", which will allow drivers to track the location of snowplows and salt trucks on provincial highways.

    The government says the Ontario 511 app shares information on winter road conditions so drivers can see which roads are bare or covered snow. It will also post Environment Canada weather warnings.

    "Driving during the winter months can be a challenge in every part of the province, and our government remains committed to keeping Ontario's roads and highways safe," said Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation.

    "That's why we are enhancing the Ontario 511 app with winter safety features that will provide drivers with even more information so they navigate the best route."

    The Ontario 511 app also provides images from over 600 cameras and includes up-to-date highway information on construction, collisions and road closures.

  • 07 Dec 2020 7:31 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    People are already complaining of over-salting on Toronto streets and sidewalks (

    It's winter in Toronto once again, meaning along with miserably early sunsets and freezing temperatures, residents can prepare for a whole lot more snow than the sprinkling we've seen so far.

    And with the snowfall inevitably comes ice, and with that, corrosive road salt that stains boots, burns doggo paws, and can even rust cars.

    Though it's very much appreciated that the city ensures sidewalks and roadways are salted for pedestrian and driver safety in slippery conditions, it seems that sometimes, workers can go a little overboard with the salting — and a few days into December, people already have thoughts on the subject.

    Citizens have been taking to social media ever since Toronto's first snowfall of the season to complain about city staffers' seeming lack of control when salting some areas, citing thick layers of the rocky chemical chunks long after the snow and ice has melted.

    Though road salt is simply halite — the raw mineral form of sodium chloride, or table salt — it can often include anti-caking agents and other chemical additives, and throws off the balance of waterways and soil, along with being dangerous to animals and the environment in general when used in excessive quantities.

    "In some urban streams, salt has reached levels high enough to kill organisms," writes the Carey Institute of Ecosystem Studies in a special report on the material.

    "However, lower than lethal levels can affect the ability of organisms to function, which impacts the overall health and function of the ecosystem."

    It is for this reason, in part, that members of the public are worried about potential over-salting, along with the fact that it's just plain ugly to look at, hard to walk on, damaging to outerwear and a waste of city time and tax dollars when far too much of it is dispersed.

    But, it's understandably tough to reach the perfect level between not enough and too much.

    According to a report from last month, the city spends $11 million or so dumping around 250 million pounds of rock salt on our roadways over the course of a typical winter — an absolutely staggering amount.

    The city says it does its due dilligence to balance everyone's safety with concern for the environment, though. In fact, Toronto was the first major municipality in Canada to introduce a Salt Management Plan, which it has been abiding by since 2001.

    Hoping to get a response here in #TorontoDanforth from our local elected officials @peter_tabuns @paulafletcherto what our next steps are on combatting over use of destructive salt that leads into our #sharedwaters during the winter months HT @RAP_Toronto

    According to Eric Holmes of Toronto Strategic Communications, the plan ensures proper training of salt distributers, features automated and specially calibrated applicators on trucks to ensure a proper amount of the stuff is doled out, and uses road temperature sensors to " ensure salt is only applied where necessary."

    The city also actively uses other materials, like sand and salt brine, a liquid compound that leaves less salt on the road while still effectively removing ice and snow.

    "The City is aware that use of rock salt on roads is associated with negative environmental impacts and City staff work to reduce those impacts as much as possible by actively managing salt use," Holmes told blogTO, adding that citizens also have to do their best to make sure they aren't using too much salt on their own private property.

    "Residents who are concerned about the amount of salt used on the sidewalk or road can notify 311 and file a service request. The City also reminds private contractors and residents, when necessary to keep routes safe for people, to use an appropriate amount of salt. This information is usually available on the packaging or from the salt manufacturer."

    As we enter the chilly time of year, make sure to watch where you step and to invest in some protective booties for your furry friends if walking them on sidewalks and roads.

    And as for the salt stains? A mix of equal parts white vinegar and water will do the trick.

  • 04 Dec 2020 9:02 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Winter Car Prep Done Right –

    The winter season is almost upon us, which means it’s time once again to start thinking about what you should be doing with your vehicle to help best prepare for winter driving.

    Before we do so, though, know this: my mother always told my younger self whenever she’d deny my request to borrow the car that “it’s not about you. There’s a bell curve when it comes to driving skill, and most drivers you’ll come across are at the lower end of that curve.” Read: no matter how prepared your vehicle is for winter driving, it’s probably safe to assume there are drivers out there who haven’t done so and it’s on you to be vigilant and very clear on what’s going on around you, what conditions are like ahead, and so forth.

    Winter is here – you need winter tires

    Which brings me to my first point: snow tires. In my home province of British Columbia, you’ll see signs asking you to put on snow or “M + S” tires if you’re driving on certain B.C. roads between October 1 and April 30. “M + S” stands for “mud and snow” and while they are designed to offer better traction in those adverse conditions – deeper snow and mud — it doesn’t follow that they are actually “snow” tires which are demarcated with a snowflake graphic on their sidewall. You see, proper winter tires not only get different tread patterns, but they get different rubber compounds as well that are meant to work in sub-seven degree Celsius temperatures.

    M + S tires don’t necessarily have that feature so if the road surface on which you’re driving is cold or has a small dusting of frost or snow, these tires will not be as effective as proper winter tires. As far as I and many of my colleagues are concerned, the fact that B.C. allows for M + S tires as well as snow tires on those roads are not enough. If you’re really talking safety first, then a snow tire is the way to go.

    Not to mention that there are often other perks.

    “Often times, insurance companies will give you a break on your insurance if you have snow tires,” says John Polumbo, a professional vehicle detailer that works with Penske Vehicle Services in Toronto, Ont.. “(Snow tires) aren’t mandatory in Ontario, but every year, I see more and more people buying (them).” For his part, both Polumbo and his wife have winter tires on their vehicles.

    However, by no means should anyone assume that just because they have all-wheel drive (AWD) it means they don’t need snow tires. Yes, AWD does provide added mechanical traction by shuffling power to and fro to the tires that have grip, but if you don’t have proper rubber meeting the road, AWD will only take you as far as your tires can. Please, folks – don’t make the costly error of thinking AWD increases your car’s “invulnerability” factor.

    The value of rust proofing

    Speaking of “invulnerable”, we turn to your car’s exterior – we’ll get to the interior in a minute – and the ever-moving goalposts of rust proofing. It depends on the climate in which you live; most of Canada lives under a blanket of snow and salt in the winter, and as Polumbo says, “salt and moisture is a bed for rust.”

    In Polumbo’s eyes, how you proceed with rust proofing really depends on whether you own or are leasing your car.

    “A car will not rust in four years (on a lease) as long as you keep it clean,” he says. “I wash my car once a week during the winter.” Focus on getting rid of all the grime and sludge that builds up around – and within – the wheel wells. That may seem strange, as we all know it’s just going to get dirty again but it’s crucial for keeping rust off. So if you’re on a short-term lease, this method works and you could probably get away without rust proofing.

    Don’t neglect your fluids and wipers

    If you own your car and full rust-proofing isn’t in the cards, waxing can help, too, as it keeps cars cleaner and makes it tougher for sludge to build up. Speaking of pre-emptive strikes, Polumbo says that monthly applications of Rain-X, the windshield coating spray used to help water bead or stream off windscreens, will also help in snowy and icy conditions because it also makes it tougher on those water forms to build up on glass. While you’re at it: as good as Rain-X is, the company itself recommends you change your wiper blades every six months.

    Speaking of wipers: keep that fluid topped up. A bottle every two weeks in the winter is not uncommon; on the coldest days road spray can freeze almost instantaneously, forcing fluid shots every five minutes or so. Needless to say, you’ll want a lot of this; best keep an extra bottle in your trunk.

    Winter and the interior of your vehicle

    So there are a number of ways to prep your car’s exterior, but what about the interior? Salt build-up from boots and pant legs can damage a car’s interior, so switching from your car’s showroom-spec carpets to a rubberized year-round set should be job number one; manufacturers like WeatherTech make mats to fit the footwells and trunks of many vehicles, and they are often easy to clean with a simple high pressure hose.

    If the mats aren’t for you, a fabric protector such as Scotchgard 303 Fabric Guard will partially prevent salt buildup on the mats; if you’re more of the elbow grease type, a mix of vinegar and water will act as a stain remover, as long as you’re prepared to air out your car a little to be rid of the vinegar smell. If taking the time to air your car out isn’t an option, there are products such as Salt Eraser spray that are specific to salt removal.

    Canadian winters are tough but with just a little vigilance, we can all make them that much easier to drive through.

  • 04 Dec 2020 9:00 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Governor signs Adirondack road salt reduction bill | News, Sports, Jobs - Adirondack Daily Enterprise

    After months of requests from North County advocacy groups, local governments and state representatives, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Randy Preston Road Salt Reduction Act late Wednesday night. It is intended to reduce road salt pollution in the Adirondacks, and it becomes law just as concerns about snow, salt and safety on the roads are making their annual appearance.

    However, any reduction in salt use is still at least a year away, and will only be a trial run. Relief from salt runoff corrupting wells, rivers and lakes — and rusting vehicles — is a long way off.

    “We’ve been using salt on our roads for about 50 years, and in that time … by my math, about 7 million tons of salt have been put on our roads, and a lot of it has accumulated in our soils and groundwater,” said Dan Kelting, executive director of the Adirondack Watershed Institute at Paul Smith’s College. “No matter what we do, it’s going to take a considerable amount of time to reverse the contamination of folks’ drinking water.”

    The legislation will create the Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force, which will research alternatives to salt spreading on winter roads and submit its recommendations by Sept. 1, 2021. Then these recommendations will be carried out in a three-year road salt application reduction pilot program, while keeping highway safety as a top priority.

    Legacy and legislation

    The bill is named after Wilmington town Supervisor Randy Preston, who died after a battle with cancer in July 2019. Preston was known for years as a strong advocate for limiting excess road salt use. He was the co-chair of the Adirondack Road Salt Working Group.

    The two houses of state Legislature almost unanimously passed the bill in July, but it has sat on Cuomo’s desk since then, awaiting his signature. All the while, government leaders and green groups have persistently asked him to sign it, kicking off research and trial runs of salt alternatives.

    Adirondack Council Director of Communications John Sheehan said the state Department of Transportation had concerns about expenses when this bill was proposed.

    “But given the limited scope of the initial pilot project, I think that it’s something they can pretty well absorb into their budget.”

    Now that Cuomo has signed the bill, conservation and other advocacy groups are praising Cuomo for putting the plan into action.

    The Adirondack Council gathered a press release with quotes from leaders of AdkAction, the Ausable River Association, the Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter, the New York League of Conservation Voters, the Adirondack Mountain Club and the Council’s own executive director, William Janeway.

    “We thank Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders for addressing road salt pollution now, before it becomes as widespread and damaging to the environment and economy as acid rain,” Janeway wrote in a press release. “We should have safe roads and clean water. Corrosive, salty water is bad for everything it touches: lakes, rivers, fish, roads, cars, bridges, driveways, pumps, plumbing and people.”

    The bill was sponsored by North County state legislators including retiring state Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, and Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, who was elected last month to take Little’s place in the Senate. These three are holding a press conference at 12:30 p.m. Friday in Saranac Lake’s Berkeley Green to discuss this new legislation.

    The bill was also sponsored by Sen. Tim Kennedy, the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee who represents the Buffalo area.

    Slippery situation

    Salt is used to melt ice on slippery roads in the winter, but when it runs off into waterways and wells, its sodium content can have corrupting effects, altering aquatic life, making well water undrinkable and rusting out houses’ plumbing and appliances.

    “Salt-contaminated drinking water is a serious public health hazard for people with high blood pressure and other health conditions,” Brittany Christenson of AdkAction wrote in a press release. “When it strikes a private well, it 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.”

    A 2019 study by the Adirondack Watershed Institute found that of 500 Adirondacks wells tested, 64% of these downhill from state roads were found to have sodium levels exceeding the federally recommended health limit. Wells near town and county roads were shown to be much less affected; town and county highway departments rely more on sand for winter road treatment, whereas the state DOT uses straight salt.

    Kelting said AWI testing shows a “strong correlation” between salty water and state-maintained highways.

    “This convenience that we have is coming at a cost to people’s drinking water and our surface water,” Kelting said. “If people care about that, then we need to have different ways to manage our roads.”

    He said if areas are going to have less or no salt put down, there will need to be engagement with the driving public, informing them that these areas will be more slippery for drivers but safer for water.

    Kelting said the DOT has become more open to working on salt reduction over the years. He said it now partners on pilot programs on state Route 86 in Lake Placid and state Route 9 in Lake George.

    According to Sheehan, preliminary results from pilot salt reduction efforts in Lake George have demonstrated a approximate 30% drop in salt expenses. He said roughly $16 million is spent on road salt in the Adirondacks each year.

    Kelley Tucker of the Ausable River Association wrote that the pilot programs in the Lake George region and on Mirror Lake in Lake Placid show reductions in salt use are possible while maintaining public safety.

    Tucker noted that Mirror Lake’s natural turnover process was interrupted by an accumulation of salt at the bottom of the lake, leading to low oxygen at the lake bottom which threatens its fish population and makes it vulnerable to algal blooms, like the one detected in November.

    Sheehan said by the end of the three-year pilot program the state should better understand how to make the best practices of the program permanent, expand the program to the rest of the state and make it work universally.

    Sheehan said the Adirondack Park’s hard bedrock, thin soil and steep slopes make it the place where road salt damage — like acid rain damage — is likely to appear first.

    Robert Hayes of Clean Water Associate at Environmental Advocates NY called the Adirondacks a “canary in the coal mine” for the rest of the state.

    Less sand and salt?

    Dave Werner of Malone is executive secretary of the Franklin County Traffic Safety Board and writes a weekly traffic safety column for newspapers throughout the region. He recently wrote two columns defending the use of salt over sand for winter road treatment, but he said he’s not opposed to the new law because he favors reducing the amount of both sand and salt used on North Country roads.

    “I think every municipality overuses ice and snow control on all the roads,” he said Thursday.

    “Before COVID I used to go to Canada all the time … and they just put it (salt) down in the center of the road, and the crown of the road plus traffic, they take care of it. … And that’s what we should be doing, things like that, instead of dropping from the center of the truck in the back.

    “When I talk about salt being better than sand,” he added, “I’m really applying the amount of sand they lay down, being 750 to 1,000, sometimes up to 1,200 pounds per lane mile.”

    He thinks drivers can adjust to less-than-bare roads in the thick of an Adirondack winter.

    “Why do we have to drive 65 miles an hour on 55-mile-per-hour roads two hours after it stops snowing?” he said.


    Managing Editor Peter Crowley contributed to this report.

  • 20 Nov 2020 8:19 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    The Ontario government is expanding the 511 app to include new winter driving features to provide more safety on roads and highways.

    On Thursday, the province announced that the app will now have Track My Plow that allows drivers to track snowplows and salt trucks on the highways.

    There will also be information on winter road conditions so drivers can see which roads are bare or covered with snow, as well as weather warnings from Environment Canada to alert drivers of upcoming storms.

    Additionally, there will be up-to-date information on rest areas across the province.

    The province added that the app provides images from over 600 cameras and includes up-to-date highway information on construction, collisions, and road closures.

    “Driving during the winter months can be a challenge in every part of the province, and our government remains committed to keeping Ontario’s roads and highways safe,” said Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney, in a statement.

    “That’s why we are enhancing the Ontario 511 app with winter safety features that will provide drivers with even more information, so they navigate the best route.”

    According to the province, the winter driving features on the Ontario 511 app build on their plan to improve winter maintenance this year, including an additional 24 Road Weather Information Stations that provide forecasts to help winter maintenance crews prepare for a storm.

    The Ontario 511 app is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

  • 17 Nov 2020 9:34 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    A private members bill protecting small businesses and snow removal companies from lawsuits and increasing insurance rates was passed this week by the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills.

    Bill 118 — introduced by Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller — shortens the period of time individuals who have suffered falls due to snow and ice have to notify a property owner, tenant or snow removal company.

    The committee unanimously agreed to a 60-day notice period, a change from the previous two-year window injured parties had to notify the relevant property owners and businesses.

    In a press release, Miller said the goal of the bill is to reduce the number of “frivolous” slip and fall claims, in turn reducing the cost of liability insurance for snow removal contractors.

    The two-year period, Miller said, made it “very difficult for the businesses to defend themselves as evidence is often long gone, memories have faded and businesses may not even have the same staff.”

    The Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills heard from landscaping and snow removal companies who have reportedly faced increase up to 500 per cent in their liability insurance premiums and others who were refused insurance completely.

    “Ontario has winter,” Miller said. “Snow and ice are facts of life, so it is essential that we have strong snow removal businesses and that their services are affordable.”

    The bill now awaits a third reading in the Ontario Legislature.

  • 17 Nov 2020 7:39 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Randy Aynes said he didn’t mind the dropping temperatures as he sat cross-legged in the snow outside his Hayden home.

    His bare fingers twisted away a nut from beneath a snow plow attachment hovering over him as he worked without complaint, while a reporter’s fingers — cushioned in gloves — wanted nothing more than to be inside.

    “I just haven’t had time,” Aynes said as he replaced the bolt fastened to the blade. “Too much to do at work.”

    The Hayden resident for the last three years has been working construction jobs across Kootenai County. But with the weather starting to turn, Aynes has spent the past three winters using his plow and the mid-90s Chevy it's attached to for providing extra income for his wife and son in the winter months.

    “If this life has taught me anything,” the Wyoming native said, “it’s to use everything you can, every resource at your (disposal). My dad taught me that; I guess that’s why it feels like home here.”

    That rancher’s sensibility has generated what he calls a much-needed profit in the winter months. What started as four neighborhood plows his first season in Idaho quickly jumped to 11 paying customers, a number that drifted down to eight.

    “That first year (during the 2016-2017 winter),” Aynes said, “I was always busy, especially when January and February hit. So the next year, everybody was asking. But then the snowfall wasn’t nearly as bad, so it died down.”

    Aynes gave this interview Nov. 6, as the second notable snowstorm of the year fell on Kootenai County. On Friday, a winter storm brought another load of snow into the area, a wetter snow that made for sloppy roads and sloppier parking lots.

    This winter, local forecasters and scientists are predicting a heavier-than-usual snowfall across North Idaho. While National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predictions give North Idaho a colder-than-usual winter, the Old Almanac’s initial forecast called for more precipitation.

    The National Weather Service predicts both are right: A cold winter with healthy amounts of snow. October proved those models correct, with a record 7.9 inches dropping on Coeur d’Alene.

    The predictions mean a growing customer base for Aynes — for this year, at least.

    “I’m up to 20 driveways,” he said as he lifted himself up and brushed the snow off his jeans.

    Jonathan Nielsen has stood where Aynes now stands. With 14 years behind him running The Masters Land & Lawn Services out of Hayden, he said one secret to starting a snow removal business in North Idaho is, frankly, not putting the plow before the truck.

    “A lot of guys move into this area, they get into the lawn business, they stick a plow on their truck, and they think they’re going to make millions, and it just doesn’t work like that,” Nielsen said.

    Nielsen said that despite Masters’ longevity in the business, the snow removal company sometimes sees the same burdens everyone faces. Sometimes, the snow simply refuses to fall.

    “You never know what the winter’s going to be like,” he said. “Some are super busy, but a few seasons ago, I bought a new plow, some new equipment, and I think the plow touched the ground once. It snowed twice all year.”

    The Masters Land & Lawn’s name has become a bit misleading, Nielsen said. The company dropped its landscaping service two years prior, focusing primarily on snow removal.

    Nielsen said he spends the warmer seasons running two other businesses and doing whatever he needs to do — including flipping houses — to make ends meet, adding that, so long as the weather is right, plowing snow can pay off if you’re willing to put in the work.

    “Back in 2008 or 2012,” he said, “one of those years, it snowed so much, we were working 36-hour shifts. We’d nap for four hours, then work another 24 hours. Sometimes the winters are just like that.”

    The Masters Land & Lawn focuses almost exclusively on commercial lots and residential developments. For commercial parking lots, Nielsen will typically charge between $100 and $120 per plow, depending on both the size and the shape of the lot in question. (Should the lot have an awkward perimeter that doesn’t allow for easy plowing, for example, the cost could run closer to the $120 range.)

    But those contracts have escalator clauses, most notably about the one unforeseeable circumstance that is a running theme in both this story and North Idaho winters: the amount of snowfall.

    “Let’s say we had the basic $100 parking lot,” Nielsen explained. “That price is assuming we get between two and five inches of snow. But if we get more than five inches, that’ll change things. We’d charge $100 for the lot, plus an hourly rate. You’d be looking at an extra $80 to $150.”

    That price falls roughly in range with other plow operations according to some Press research. One charges almost exactly the same price, one charges as low as $80 per lot with escalator clauses, and one charges $150 per lot but with no escalators.

    Residential developments, Nielsen said, can run around $500, but plowing those developments can become problematic in certain circumstances.

    Depending, once again, on the weather.

    “I remember one year, it snowed so much, and the wind was blowing. With this one development — it usually takes us about three hours to plow it all — we would plow, and by the time we were done, gosh, there were foot-high snow drifts that blew back onto their driveways," he said. "The (Homeowners’ Association) called us and said, ‘Hey, you guys didn’t plow.’ And we had to tell them, ‘Yeah, we did. It’s just been blowing snow all morning.”

    Those driveways are the only ones Masters Land & Lawn touches these days.

    As for Aynes, when he started plowing neighbors’ driveways three years earlier — “If you served, or if you’re elderly,” he said, “I’ll cut you a deal” — he charged $10 per plow. That rate jumped to $20 before he decided on a subscription service: $50 per month, come snow or sunshine.

    “This will take a little while to grow,” he said. “But growing a business is like the weather: You just have to be patient.”

  • 10 Nov 2020 7:06 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    The City of Vaughan said Friday, Nov. 6 that it's “becoming the first municipality” in Canada to adopt an artificial intelligence tool to apply salt to its roads this winter.

    “This tool will ensure the city is applying the right salt, at the right time, in the right amount, in the right place,” the city said in a release.

    “Using sensors, this tool will take various factors into account — including weather models, Vaughan’s micro-climates, traffic volumes, and road temperatures, moisture and conditions — to inform road winter maintenance decisions.”

    The city described “this innovative approach” as key in keeping “the road network safe, while maintaining fiscal prudence and environmental consciousness.”

    Environmentally conscious observers have long called for salt reduction during winter time, since increased salinity could harm freshwater organisms and contaminate groundwater.

    In 2019, Elizabeth Hendriks, vice-president of freshwater with the World Wildlife Fund Canada, said in an interview that during winter time, “some of our rivers will have salt as high as oceans.”

    Meanwhile, increasing tech adoption is ongoing in Vaughan.

    In September, Vaughan citizens were able to use Quick Response (QR) codes to alert the city about full garbage cans in local parks.

    The Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital — still under construction — is also expected to be Canada's first smart hospital.

  • 02 Nov 2020 8:29 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    After passing the Assembly on Monday, the bill now awaits approval by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. State Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury said Cuomo is concerned with environmental issues, and she hopes he will pass it.

    Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, also said he is “optimistic” that Cuomo will sign it.

    “It’s supported by everybody in the Adirondacks,” Stec said. “If I’m the executive and I see that all those groups, both sides, the guys that put the salt down and the guys that hate putting the salt down, are on the same page, there’s nothing to be opposed to.”

    The legislation, which Little and Stec co-sponsored, would create a task force and pilot-program study with the goal of reducing the amount of road salt applied to state highways in the Adirondack Park each winter.

    “When it comes to keeping our lakes, rivers and streams and water wells clean, the old adage of an ‘ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure’ certainly fits,” said Little. “A comprehensive study, including a pilot program, would give us the data we need to develop best practices.”

    The bill is named after the Wilmington town supervisor who died last summer. Preston also served as co-chair of the Adirondack Road Salt Working Group and advocated to limit excess road salt use.

    “This effort was spearheaded by the late Randy Preston, and upon speaking with his wife Michelle, she was elated that his legacy will be carried on,” Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay Lake, wrote in a press release.

    Stec said Preston was a man passionate about many issues, but road salt stuck out as one he was especially passionate about.

    “It’s imperative that we strike a balance of providing safety to our residents while addressing the ecological health of our waterways,” Stec wrote in a press release. “A proactive environmental strategy which also addresses the need for safe passable highways is long overdue in the Adirondacks.”

    The legislation passed with a solitary “nay” vote from Sen. Andrew Lanza, R-Staten Island. Little said she did not know why Lanza voted against the bill.

    A salty problem

    Salt is used to keep slippery roads safer in the winter, but when it runs off into waterways, wells and natural lands its sodium content can have corrupting effects, changing the makeup of streams or making wells undrinkable.

    A 2019 study from the Adirondack Watershed Institute at Paul Smith’s College said of 500 Adirondacks wells tested, 64% of these downhill from state roads had sodium levels exceeding the federally recommended health limit.

    AWI Executive Director Dan Kelting, a Paul Smith’s professor and researcher, said there was significant contamination to wells downhill from state roads but not to ones uphill, showing that salt runoff was the problem. He said salt poses human health problems in wells, as it can endanger those on low-sodium diets, corrode pipes, ruin appliances and ruin water flavor.

    Kelting said wells near state roads have higher salt content than those near local roads since local government plow trucks use more sand than salt. He said New York’s salt usage is higher than other states that also deal with snow.

    According to an press release from local advocacy group AdkAction, “Each year, over 190,000 tons of road salt are applied to roadways in the Adirondacks, posing a threat to aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, water quality, and the safety of drinking water. New York State uses about 2.5 times more salt per lane-mile than county and municipal road crews.”

    What would happen

    If the governor signs the bill, the Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force would be a 14-member group of appointed state and local stakeholders. It would research alternatives to salt spreading on winter roads and submit its recommendations by Sept. 1, 2021. A three-year road salt application reduction pilot program would implement these changes.

    Then, for three years from 2021 to 2024, the pilot plan would test these management practices on all state-owned roadways within the boundary of the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park.

    Little said these measures could involve spreading different substances on the roads, using new types of plows that scrape up more salt, changing how salting is done to focus on prevention and removal, having plows drive slower to avoid salt bouncing off the roads, and reducing speed limits in low-salt areas.

    Kelting said solutions may require an education campaign telling people to drive slower on snowy roads.

    Following the completion of the pilot plan, the state departments of Transportation and Environmental Conservation would submit a report to the governor and state Legislature by Aug. 30, 2024, detailing the impact on road safety and water quality in the Adirondack Park.

    Little said there have been pilot programs focusing on this issue in the past and some are currently in place, but this measure would allow larger leaps in research and progress.

    “The good news, as we’ve seen in municipalities such as Lake George where there has been a tremendous focus on this issue, is that newer equipment and utilizing technology is helping our local highway departments do their incredibly important work of keeping our roadways safe while cutting back on road salt usage,” Little wrote. “My hope is that we can do the same throughout the park.”

    If this pilot program is successful, it could be expanded statewide.

    Stec said this will not be a fast fix, but it is a first step in the process of safely reducing road salt. The bill does not allocate money for the study, so the DOT will need to accommodate for it in its budget.

    Kelting said he is encouraged that if the bill becomes law, people from a variety of fields will discuss this issue and look for solutions.

  • 02 Nov 2020 8:14 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

    Adirondack environmental groups and local government leaders don’t always agree, but both want the state Department of Transportation to reduce the amount of road salt it dumps on roads in winter.

    In September, green groups pressed Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign an Adirondack road salt reduction bill. Now about 30 local government leaders are doing the same, according to a press release from AdkAction, a multi-purpose advocacy group based in Saranac Lake.

    “We have a track-side seat at a slow-moving train wreck,” Gerald Delaney Sr., executive director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board and a Saranac town councilman, said in the release. “The decades-old practice of using salt is coming home to roost. Aquifers are contaminated by salt beyond use. The number of wells impacted are growing every year. Now is not the time for blame; we all benefited from clear roads. I call on the Gov. Coumo to do what he does best: Manage a crisis with science and good decision-making skills. Show the rest of the country New York is a leader. This will be a crisis if we don’t act.”

    It was an easy sell for state lawmakers. The Randy Preston Road Salt Reduction Act (S.8663a, A.8767a) passed the Assembly unanimously, 141-0, on July 20 and passed the Senate 59-1 two days later. Out of 201 legislators, only Sen. Andrew Lanza, a Republican from Staten Island, voted no. But the bill still needs the governor’s signature to become law.

    If approved, it would establish a task force whose recommendations would be incorporated into an Adirondack Park-wide pilot program to reduce salt use, while maintaining safe roads.

    The bill was named for Randy Preston, a former Wilmington town supervisor who rallied local government support for protecting the park’s waters from road salt until his death from brain cancer last year.

    Roy Holzer, the current Wilmington supervisor, was among the first local government leaders to sign on to urge Cuomo to sign the bill into law.

    “It is often the people with limited resources who are having their wells contaminated with road salt, and they struggle to afford to drill a new well and replace all of their pipes and appliances,” Holzer said in the AdkAction release. “Local efforts can only go so far; we need state leadership on this issue.”

    Longtime Lake George Mayor Robert Blais added, “We have been working for years to safeguard Lake George from salt contamination and we are starting to see some very promising results in terms of salt reduction and also substantial cost savings. I encourage the governor to take what we have learned and apply it across the park to help save all of the other pristine Adirondack lakes and, of course, to protect drinking water.”

    “We all recognize the vital importance of safe drinking water and of protecting our streams, lakes and ponds from the pollution introduced by the excess use of salt on our roads,” said Ronald Moore, chairman of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, Adirondack native and former North Hudson town supervisor.

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