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Salt Use Reduction Initiative

The Ausable Salt Use Reduction Initiative is a collaborative partnership to leverage science, technology, best practices, and community engagement to reduce road salt use in the Ausable River watershed. Road salt is a significant threat to both surface and groundwater within the Ausable River watershed and beyond. The Ausable River Association's stream monitoring has documented elevated salt concentrations along much of the length of the Ausable River and in many of its tributaries. Our research partner, Paul Smith's College Adirondack Watershed Institute, has documented surface and groundwater salinization across the Adirondack Park. Road salt pollution is an environmental, human health, and economic concern for our region. 

Reducing Salt Use - Improving Water Quality

The Ausable RIver Association (AsRA) and our partners are working with four sets of tools to make the Salt Use Reduction Initiative efficient and effective. 

Science

AsRA's science staff, in partnership with the Adirondack Watershed Institute and with support from Renssalaer Polytechnical Institiute, is conducting rigorous scientific monitoring of Ausable River watershed lakes and streams with a focus on Mirror Lake. We've built a sophisticated water quality monitoring network encircling Mirror Lake that tracks lake salinity and measures accumulated runoff. The resulting data informs priority areas for salt reduction and assesses the effectiveness of best practices implemented within the watershed.

Technology

We're leverging technological advances in snow management and salt tracking to better utilize the information fleaned from scientific monitoring andhelp our communities implement best management practices. Automated vehicle location systems, new plow technology, road weather information systems, and continuous water quality monitors are examples of the technology tools available to us. 

Best Practices

Working in partnership with snow and ice industry expert Phill Sexton of WIT Advisers, allows us to bring up-to-date information and training to road and winter maintenance crews, giving them the skill and knowledge to optimize and reduce salt use while maintaining safe roads, sidewalks, and parking lots. Many of the same best practices can be applied at home and in small businesses and by private contractors.

Community

We are engaging the community, providing it with information and tools, helping residents and business owners to reduce or eliminate salt use on driveways and walks, and inspiring people to be part of the solution. An informed and engaged working group of community members help guide and support the work of the Salt Use Reduction Initiative and help us spread the word about the importance of measuring and reducing salt use.

Priority Project: Save Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake is the centerpiece of Lake Placid, and its health is vital to the social, cultural, and economic life of the community. But the overuse of road salt for many years – on roads, sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots around the lake – has taken a toll. Road salt washes off these impermeable surfaces and flows over land and through stormwater drains into the lake every winter and spring. In 2014, AsRA’s science staff first documented elevated chloride concentrations in the water at the bottom of Mirror Lake. In 2015, we determined the lake was no longer turning over reliably in spring. Why does spring turnover matter? The most important reason is that it redistributes oxygen into the deep waters of the lake. Oxygen distribution is critical for the survival of cold-water fish species, such as the native lake trout that live in Mirror Lake. If oxygen is not replenished at the lake bottom in spring, lake trout are forced into a narrow band of water that is cool enough and has enough oxygen as summer sun warms the surface waters. The lack of oxygen at the bottom also threatens zooplankton and other organisms that live there. More frightening, the lack of turnover leaves the lake vulnerable to toxic algae blooms and fish kills – events that would be devastating for the lake’s human community, its economy, and for the dense web of ecosystems and aquatic life that call it home.

Our scientific monitoring network, paired with the new technologies and best practices we're bringing to the Lake Placid community, will pinpoint the reduction in salt usage that triggers a steady reduction in lake salt concentrations. With that information, the community and its leaders, working with state agencies, can make long-term plans that protect the lake. Road salt pollution is a problem the community created. It is up to us – the community that loves Mirror Lake – to solve it. 

Priority Actions

  • Continue monitoring of Mirror Lake and the watershed through 2025.
  • Distribute our salt use reduction brochure to Mirror Lake watershed and Lake Placid residents.
  • Quantify the total road salt load entering Mirror Lake so that specific salt reduction targets can be established. 
    • Residents and businesses of the Mirror Lake Watershed can email salt@ausableriver.org to fill out the salt use survey.
    • Continue working with the Village of Lake Placid and Town of North Elba in snowplow truck salt tracking.

Salt Reduction Successes

  • Randy Preston Road Salt Reduction Act signed into law in 2020.
  • Town of North Elba and Village of Lake Placid adoption of Live Edge plow technology.
  • Village of Lake Placid stormwater improvements to reduce direct discharge to Mirror Lake.
  • NYS DOT pilot salt reduction program along Route 86, including the portion adjacent to Mirror Lake.
  • 5th Annual Adirondack Champlain Regional Salt Summit held in Lake Placid.

How You Can Help

  • Follow Sustainable Winter Ice Management (SWiM) guidelines:
    • Improve how you measure: use no more than 5 pounds of salt for every 1000 square feet.
    • Apply salt evenly and consistently.
    • Apply salt or brine before snow or ice accumulate.
    • Know your site: Keep salt away from any storm drains. Storm drains lead directly to streams and lakes.
  • Or, try a no salt approach! Shovel & sweep often:
    • Shovel snow before you walk on it and before more than 2" accumulate. Then repeat!
  • If you live in the Mirror Lake Watershed fill out our salt survey. Contact salt@ausableriver.org for your survey today. 

 Partners

     

Funders

Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake is the most threatened lake in the Ausable watershed
Caring for the Ausable
Caring for the Ausable
A practical guide for making a difference locally.
Threats
Threats
The Ausable River is a river on the edge.
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