The LGA was proud to co-host, with Lake Champlain Sea Grant, the 6th Annual Adirondack Champlain Regional Salt Summit, on Oct. 14 at the Fort William Henry Hotel & Conference Center in Lake George Village.
The Summit, coordinated by Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky, drew more than 200 elected officials, highway department staff, scientists, business owners and homeowners from 20 states either in-person or virtually to share their research, success stories and discuss ways for safely reducing their use of road salt, saving money and keeping the harmful salt out of waterbodies and drinking water wells.
Among the featured programs was the Lake George Road Salt Reduction Initiative, established by the LGA seven years ago in response to startling data that showed chloride levels in Lake George had more than tripled over a 30-year period, with road salt the primary culprit.
Watch each segment of the Salt Summit:
Kathy Flacke Muncil, CEO of the Fort William Henry Corp. and Chair of the LGA’s Council of Business Advisors opened the Summit with a call for the entire community to “hold hands together” to protect Lake George for generations to come. Rachel Seeber, Chair of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, welcomed attendees to the Summit and praised local municipalities’ success in reducing road salt use and saving taxpayers’ money.
Jim Sutherland, Ph.D., longtime science consultant to the LGA, provided an overview of the water quality sampling program he and Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky have implemented to continuously monitor the impacts the New York State Department of Transportation’s Rt. 9N pilot salt-reduction program is having on nearby tributaries.
Joel Harrison, Ph.D., a research scientist at RPI’s Darrin Fresh Water Institute and member of The Jefferson Project scientific team, reported on a monitoring program at 11 Lake George tributaries. Among the findings: Hague Brook had the most statistically significant declining trend in chloride concentrations of the tributaries, with an average 4% per year reduction between 2016 and 2020. The LGA finds this particularly noteworthy given that the Town of Hague Highway Department has led the way in salt reduction in the watershed during that time. Dr. Harrison also reported that the highest chloride concentrations are found in those tributaries that are near the greatest amount of impervious surface (roads, parking lots, etc.), and that concentrations are higher during dry conditions (such as in late summer), when most of the stream flow is fed by groundwater; this suggests that the groundwater has become enriched in chloride.
The Lake George Road Salt Reduction Initiative success story was presented by Tim Fiallo of the Town of Hague Highway Department, Town of Lake George Highway Superintendent Rob Lanfear and Town Winter Management Specialist Rob Vopleus, along with Raqib Omer, founder and CEO of Viaesys, a key technology provider to the Initiative. Tim Fiallo spoke with pride and passion about Hague’s success in reducing road salt use from 1,600 tons per year during the winter of 2016-17 to 550 tons last year by pre-treating roads with brine to minimize ice build-up, and by using live-edge plows for a “closer shave.” Now, he said, “We’re ready to take it to the next level.” The Town of Lake George contingent spoke with equal enthusiasm about their achievements and commitment to continuous improvement for the betterment of the Lake and taxpayers’ wallets, echoing Rob Vopleu’s mantra of, “Our sweat is your equity.”
Rob Fitch, Director of the Office of Transportation Management for the New York State Department of Transportation, and Josh Rousseau, Deputy Chief of Staff at NYSDOT, provided an overview of salt-reduction pilot projects the state is conducting in the Lake George and Lake Placid regions.
Leading Edge Sponsors Presentations: In this session, our Leading Edge sponsors were given an opportunity to introduce their products and services to Summit attendees. Representing Voigt-Smith Innovation was Tim Slocum, president of T. Slocum, Inc., the New England dealer for Voigt-Smith. Representing Innovative Surface Solutions was Regional Sales Manager Joe Cashin.
New York State Sen. Dan Stec spoke about the importance of road salt reduction, particularly as it relates to safeguarding private drinking water wells. Nothing the cost in dollars, as well as environmental harm, the Senator said, “It breaks your heart, driving down the Northway, to see road salt bouncing” off the pavement and onto the side of the road where it rolls into streams or infiltrates groundwater.
Keynote speaker Ted Diers, a nationally recognized road salt reduction expert with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, said road salt use is “inherently a people problem,” with many having unrealistic expectations for how well snow and ice must be removed from roads and walkways. “When did it become OK for a sidewalk to crunch,” he asked. “Why do we have so much stinking salt going down on sidewalks and our parking lots?”
Ted’s presentation focused on New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation law that assumes people take inherent risks when traveling by car or foot during the winter, and provides limited protections to winter management contractors who become certified through a state program, much like protections that are awarded to ski centers in the event of a skiing accident. He also had high praise for the commitment demonstrated by all of the Lake George Road Salt Reduction Initiative’s public- and private-sector participants. “I believe you are truly unique in the way you have joined together around a single resource that everyone loves. I don’t know of any other place on the planet where it’s happening just like this.”
A limited liability panel discussion followed the keynote, with Ted Diers; Vinnie Crocitto, owner of the Holiday Inn Resort-Lake George; and Jeremie MacEwan of MacEwan Land Care in Bolton Landing.
The University of Vermont Salt Reduction Task Force detailed the toll road salt is taking on the buildings, infrastructure and streams on its 600-acre campus, and the changes they are making in the way they manage winter storms.
Brittany Christenson, executive director of ADK Action, provided a preview of its new “Clean Water, Safe Roads Partnership,” which had its roots in a pledge to reduce road salt signed by municipalities throughout the Adirondack Park, much like the start of the Lake George Road Salt Reduction Initiative.
Lake George Waterkeeper and Summit organizer Chris Navitsky wraps up the Summit by recapping the key lessons learned.