Is Salt Leaching into Wells? Waterkeeper Wants to Know

Anthony F. Hall
March 2017

Reducing the amount of salt entering Lake George is a priority for environmental protection organizations and highway departments, which are experimenting with less harmful de-icing agents to keep roads safe in winter. But according to Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky, not all salt washes directly from the highway into the lake or its tributaries. A highly soluble compound, the road salt also finds its way into ground water.

Now Navitsky hopes to determine how the brackish wash from roads might percolate through deep strata and resurface, somewhere, perhaps on land, in springs, possibly even in drinking water wells.

In collaboration with the Adirondack Watershed Institute at Paul Smith’s College, Navitsky is launching a study to determine the
extent and magnitude of road salt contamination of drinking water wells within the Lake George watershed and throughout the
Adirondack Park.

We’ve learned from our studies of streams that high levels of chlorides persist long after spring thaws; But that made us wonder if there was a relationship between road salt in lake and drinking water wells,” said Navitsky.

If salt reaches household wells, it can increase the salinity of drinking water and pose risks to some people’s health, Navitsky said. Public health, then, is among the issues of interest to Navitsky and the researchers at the Adirondack Watershed Institute. But they also want to know if using less salt is having a positive impact on steams, groundwater and wells.

If that’s the case, that’s a powerful argument for the adoption of alternatives to road salt and conservation-minded strategies,”
said Navitsky.

According to Navitsky, the team is seeking volunteers to assist with the study. Any homeowner who wishes to have their well water tested and analyzed at the Adirondack Watershed Institute should contact him at 518-668-9700.

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