Spreading Road Salt Contamination

Adirondack Explorer

New testing shows that more Adirondack wells are contaminated by unhealthful levels of road salt.

The Adirondack Watershed Institute at Paul Smith’s College collected data showing that two-thirds of the wells it tested downslope from state roads were polluted by sodium beyond the federally recommended health limit of 20 parts per million. State crews spread salt to de-ice the roads, and it ultimately spills into nearby streams and leeches into the groundwater.

The data confirm and expand on what the institute reported last year, when it found that more than half of a smaller sampling of downslope wells exceeded the threshold.

According to the institute, its recent sampling of nearly 500 wells throughout the Adirondack Park showed that 64 percent of those that were downslope of heavily salted state roads exceeded the threshold, Executive Director Dan Kelting said. Those 157 downslope wells averaged 33 ppm.

If we continue the same practice, concentrations will continue to go up,” Kelting said. “We’ll have more and more surface water contamination. We’ll have more and more people’s wells be contaminated by salt.

We’ll have less and less of an opportunity to change it.”

…This winter, the state Department of Transportation has tried using less salt on stretches of highways along Mirror Lake and Lake George, which have seen their salt content rising for decades.

Meanwhile, the Fund for Lake George and other environmentalists have advanced a broad municipal effort to cut salt use in that watershed, while another group, AdkAction, has launched an effort to do the same park-wide.

To read the full article, visit adirondackexplorer.org.