Salt

  • Photo © Carl Heilman II

Dangers of a High Salt Diet

Thirty years of water chemistry monitoring show that sodium chloride levels in Lake George have tripled since 1981. The vast majority of this increase is from application of road salt, the most commonly employed method for mitigating winter weather conditions by the New York State Department of Transportation. Every year, a stunning 13-tons of road salt is applied per lane mile in the Lake George watershed for a total of 9,000 tons annually. This salt then enters the Lake via stormwater runoff and once there, can only be removed from the water column via drainage out the LaChute River. Increased chloride levels can impact aquatic ecosystems in a variety of ways, beginning with alteration of the microscopic community of plants that form the base of the lake's food web and, if unchecked, may exceed the maximum recommended drinking water threshold for people on salt-restricted diets in the not too distant future. 

While de-icing alternatives exist, they entail their own list of environmental concerns. Calcium chloride is an effective de-icer but increased calcium promotes the development and spread of zebra mussels, one of the aquatic invasive species currently found in Lake George. Sand, another alternative, is problematic as sand runoff increases sedimentation in the Lake's tributaries, leading to the formation of stream deltas. Another startling statistic - 29,000 tons of sand are applied to roads annually, further compounding the impacts of runoff.

The Road Ahead

As research findings of the 30 Year Study and The Jefferson Project at Lake George raise broad awareness on priority concerns that include salt loading, The FUND's Legacy Strategy harnesses this science to produce responsive solutions and measureable results. It is this informed and inclusive approach that will ensure we reach our desired destination for the next generation.