By WALT LENDER
Lake George Association Executive Director
December means snow is coming – and the blanket of white also means we bring out our snow removal tools.
There is a snow and ice removal tool that I’d like you to use less this year, though. That’s salt.
Please take a moment before you begin spreading all that salt on your sidewalk, driveway and, for business owners, parking lots. Please remember that any salt you put down likely will end up in the Lake.
Let that sink in for a minute. Salt you put on your driveway, your parking lot, can (and likely will) get into the Lake in some form.
I know that there aren’t all that many cost-effective alternatives to using salt. So for now, until a new product is identified, the key is reducing the amount of salt used; adopting best management practices; and applying the right material, at the right time, and in the right amount.
By now, you have heard us and others say that excess salt in our watershed is bad for the Lake. It can disrupt our freshwater ecosystems and can contaminate Lake George as a drinking water supply, among other major concerns.
The LGA is working diligently with our partners to find and use money in a number of grants (including one from state Sen. Betty Little) to purchase and install equipment at municipal DPW garages to cut back on salt application throughout the area – from brining tanks and spreaders to new types of plows and more secure storage for salt so it doesn’t leak into the water. Some are already in use this season (see photo above).
But you can also play a major part in the reduction of salt in Lake George’s environment.
Everyone who lives in the Lake George watershed can help if you follow this advice:
Apply only what’s needed: Sprinkle de-icing material on icy areas only, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for working temperatures and application rates. Winter salt is most effective between 32 degrees F and 10 degrees F. If the temperature is above or below that, you can consider alternatives such as using a small amount of sand for traction, or chopping and removing the built up snow/ice with an ice chipper or shovel.
Apply protectively: Keep salt application away from any storm drain, or where melted runoff can mix with salt and then flow into a storm drain. In many communities, storm drains lead directly into the Lake.
Shovel early and often: It stands to reason that when you remove snow and ice by shoveling, you’ll need less salt and the de-icing material will be more effective. Begin your cleanup work as early as you can and keep up with the snowfall (unless freezing rain is forecast to follow the snow) so the sun can get at the pavement/sidewalk and melt it away. You may even decide that salt isn’t needed.
Do your homework: Research de-icing materials before you purchase them to determine which is best for your specific property and need. Not all products have the same ingredients.
For a list of all the steps you can take to protect Lake George from salt, please see the page on our website.
Walt Lender is the executive director of the Lake George Association, which for more than 130 years has performed in-the-ground projects to guard Lake George water quality, invested in recreational and safety programs (including remapping and reinstalling navigational buoy locations) and has helped to educate a generation of watershed residents about the ways they can help keep Lake George clean.