Conservation groups in Northern New York scored a victory in early December by persuading Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to sign a bill designed to lessen problems caused by road salt in the Adirondacks.
Mr. Cuomo signed the Randy Preston Road Salt Reduction Act on Dec. 2. It will reduce the amount of road salt spread on a trial basis and launch a study to determine what alternatives can be employed.
“The legislation creates an Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force and Pilot Program. The new law establishes a salt-reduction pilot program from October 2021 through 2024 to test alternative measures already shown to work better and cost less than current winter road maintenance practices. Highway safety would remain the top priority,” according to a news release issued Dec. 2 by the Adirondack Council. “The bill (S.8663-A/A.8767-A) was sponsored by Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo; Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury; and Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay. Co-sponsors included Sens. Neil Breslin, D-Albany; Daphne Jordan, R-Castleton-on-Hudson; Joe Griffo, R-Rome; and Rachael May, D-Morrisville. The groups also thanked Senate Environmental Conservation Committee Chairman Todd Kaminsky, D-Long Beach, for his support as well as Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury; Assembly Transportation Chairman Bill Magnarelli, D-Syracuse; and Assembly EnCon Chair Steven Englebright, D-Setauket.”
This bill came about as a result of serious discussion on the part of conservation groups, local elected officials and state authorities.
“The bill is named after Wilmington town Supervisor Randy Preston, who died after a battle with cancer in July 2019. Preston was known for years as a strong advocate for limiting excess road salt use. He was the co-chair of the Adirondack Road Salt Working Group,” according to a story by the Adirondack Daily Enterprise published Dec. 7 by the Watertown Daily Times. “The two houses of state Legislature almost unanimously passed the bill in July, but it has sat on Cuomo’s desk since then awaiting his signature. All the while, government leaders and green groups have persistently asked him to sign it, kicking off research and trial runs of salt alternatives.
“Salt is used to melt ice on slippery roads in the winter. But when it runs off into waterways and wells, its sodium content can have corrupting effects, altering aquatic life, making well water undrinkable and rusting out houses’ plumbing and appliances,” the article reported. “A 2019 study by the Adirondack Watershed Institute found that of 500 Adirondacks wells tested, 64% of these downhill from state roads were found to have sodium levels exceeding the federally recommended health limit. Wells near town and county roads were shown to be much less affected; town and county highway departments rely more on sand for winter road treatment, whereas the state DOT uses straight salt.”
The legislation’s enactment drew praise from local environmental groups. The Adirondack Council said it began working with the state Department of Transportation on road salt in 2006.
“We thank Gov. Cuomo and legislative leaders for addressing road salt pollution now before it becomes as widespread and damaging to the environment and economy as acid rain,” Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway said in the news release. “We should have safe roads and clean water. Corrosive, salty water is bad for everything it touches: lakes, rivers, fish, roads, cars, bridges, driveways, pumps, plumbing and people.”
This is a good example of how effective grass-roots efforts can be when applied correctly. We commend the local advocates who have lobbied to get this law passed and state officials who recognized its value.