AdkAction members and partners are celebrating a major legislative milestone that will reduce road salt contamination in the Adirondacks. The Randy Preston Road Salt Reduction Act, which passed in both state houses with bi-partisan support in July, was signed into law by Governor Cuomo today.
This legislation creates a Task Force and a 3-year pilot program to implement data-driven salt reduction tactics while maintaining safe roads for winter drivers. This much-needed pilot program will work towards halting the spread of salt pollution into our streams, lakes, and most importantly our drinking water.
An urgent need
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.
A 2019 study by the Adirondack Watershed Institute tested 500 Adirondack wells downhill from state roads, and found that 64% had sodium levels exceeding the federally recommended limit.
“When a private well is contaminated by salt, it becomes a hazard for people with high blood pressure and other health conditions. The situation can create a costly crisis for local families who need to buy bottled water and replace appliances, pipes, and even drill new wells,” said AdkAction Executive Director Brittany Christenson.
Although the passage of this legislation is a milestone for the Adirondack Salt Reduction Working Group, ongoing public outreach and education are needed to achieve an impactful reduction. AdkAction is working with municipalities throughout the Adirondacks to sign a Pledge to Reduce Road Salt – a memorandum of understanding that identifies issues associated with road salt applications, as well as steps that may be taken to help reduce related impacts. To date, 26 Adirondack towns and villages have signed the pledge.
Preston would be proud
Randy Preston, who passed away last year after battling cancer, was tenacious in pursuing the goal of road salt reduction. This law named in his honor will add to his legacy as a champion for protecting Adirondack wells, streams, and lakes. In addition to working to limit excess road salt use during his tenure as Wilmington Town Supervisor and Chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors, he served as co-chair of the Adirondack Road Salt Working Group, which engages stakeholders across the region in evaluating safe and effective alternatives to the overuse of road salt. The group, coordinated by AdkAction, and including representatives from Adirondack Council, Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute, and Ausable River Association, has helped advance research on the impact of road salt on Adirondack communities and used those findings to advocate for changes in road salting practices.
In 2018, Randy Preston noted, “we look forward to working with NYS DOT and DEC in coming up with a solution that will be good for all. Continued monitoring will gauge our collective success.” Thanks to the past efforts of Preston and many others who are passionately working to reduce harmful road salt use, the Adirondack Park is one step closer to achieving that vision today.