Officials at Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute (AWI) announced it was recently awarded two research grants from the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP). The first grant will help scientists and policy makers understand the extent of road salt pollution in Lake Champlain. The second grant will support AWI scientists to assess the effectiveness of recent stormwater upgrades in Lake Placid to improve water quality in Mirror Lake.
Road salt is as a significant source of pollution in the Lake Champlain Basin, which includes 11 sub-basins drained from major tributaries in New York, Vermont, and Quebec including the Saranac, Ausable, Winooski, Missisquoi, and Lamoille Rivers. With the generous support of the LCBP, AWI scientists will compile existing data from all water bodies within the Lake Champlain Basin to determine what is driving sodium and chloride levels. As a result, scientists will have a better understanding of the extent and cause of road salt pollution in the basin, which will help inform long-term practices to reduce road salt and protect the environment.
“We look forward to working with LCBP to understand long-term changes, their causes, and the trajectory of sodium and chloride concentrations in the Lake Champlain Basin”, said Dr. Brendan Wiltse, senior research scientist for AWI and Principle Investigator for both of the grants. “As a result, New York and Vermont decision makers will be better informed to make management decisions that benefit the environment and the public.”
“New York State recently passed the Randy Preston Road Salt Reduction Act”, said Dr. Dan Kelting, executive director for AWI and an appointed member of the Governor’s Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force. “The research grant we recently secured will help inform similar policy decisions in Vermont and Quebec”.
The second grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program will allow AWI and its partners at the Ausable River Association to assess the effectiveness of stormwater upgrades around Mirror Lake in Lake Placid.
Mirror Lake has one of the most developed watersheds on the New York side of the Lake Champlain Basin. For many years, stormwater runoff from around Mirror Lake has flowed directly to the lake. The Village of Lake Placid is currently amid a two-year multimillion-dollar construction project to improve the sewer and stormwater systems below Main Street, including the construction of three large underground retention basins that will receive stormwater runoff and allow percolation into the ground, resulting in a slow-release to Mirror Lake. These new systems are a substantial improvement over the current systems.
Stormwater runoff can have significant impacts on waterbodies like Mirror Lake. Runoff that moves over impervious surfaces, such as parking lots, sidewalks, and roads, picks up road salt, sediment, petroleum products and other toxins. The untreated water is discharged into waterbodies, causing excess pollution in the environment.
“AWI will leverage years of long-term water quality monitoring data from Mirror Lake to understand how well the new stormwater system is preventing pollutants, like road salt, from entering the lake in high concentrations”, said Wiltse. “After the infrastructure improvements are complete, AWI will start collecting new water quality data, and we expect to see improvements as a result of this large-scale project.”
“We commend the Village of Lake Placid for taking measures to improve management of its stormwater runoff,” said Kelting. “This study will help municipalities understand how investing in green infrastructure can benefit the health and safety of people, wildlife, and aquatic ecosystems.”
The mission of the Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Protect is to protect clean water, conserve habitat, and support the health and well-being of people in the Adirondacks through science, collaboration, and real-world experiences for students. More can be found on adkwatershed.com.