Bill Named in Honor of Late Wilmington Supervisor
The bi-partisan Randy Preston Road Salt Reduction Act passed in both houses this week. If signed by Governor Cuomo, it will create a pilot program that will implement strategies to reduce road salt affecting Adirondack waters, while maintaining safe roads for winter drivers.
Preston, who passed away in 2019 after battling cancer, was tenacious in pursuing the goal of road salt reduction. This legislation will add to his legacy as a champion for protecting Adirondack wells, streams, and lakes. In addition to working to limit excess road salt use during his tenure as Wilmington Town Supervisor and Chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors, he served as co-chair of the Adirondack Road Salt Working Group, which engages stakeholders across the region in evaluating safe and effective alternatives to the overuse of road salt. The working group, which is coordinated by AdkAction, is comprised of representatives from Adirondack Council, Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute, and Ausable River Association has helped advance research on the impact of road salt on Adirondack communities, and used those findings to advocate for state and local changes in road salting practices as well as the pilot program included in this legislation.
If signed into law, the task force created by the Randy Preston Road Salt Reduction Act will submit recommendations to reduce road salt application to protect clean water while maintaining safe roadways by September 2021. A three-year Adirondack Park-wide pilot program would then commence, putting those recommendations to the test. Best practices identified by the pilot program may then be implemented state-wide in the future.
The bill (S.8663-A/A.8767-A) was sponsored by Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, and Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay. Jones noted in a press release that “it’s critical that we find a way to protect drivers without continuing to harm the environment and pollute our drinking water.”
Each year, over 190,000 tons of road salt are applied to roadways in the Adirondacks, posing a threat to aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, water quality, and the safety of drinking water. New York State uses about 2.5 times more salt per lane-mile than county and municipal road crews.
A 2019 study by the Adirondack Watershed Institute tested 500 Adirondack wells downhill from state roads, and found that 64% had sodium levels exceeding the federally recommended limit.
“AdkAction has been working to address the negative consequences of road salt for nearly a decade. We are encouraged by the passage of this bi-partisan legislation that would foster collaboration between state agencies and appointed task force members to find balanced solutions to protect clean water and drivers. We urge Governor Cuomo to sign the bill into law.” said Brittany Christenson of AdkAction.
Although the passage of this legislation is a milestone for the Adirondack Salt Reduction Working Group, ongoing public outreach and education are needed to achieve an impactful reduction. AdkAction is working with municipalities throughout the Adirondacks to sign a Pledge to Reduce Road Salt – a memorandum of understanding that identifies issues associated with road salt applications, as well as steps that may be taken to help reduce related impacts. To date, 26 Adirondack towns and villages have signed the Pledge. The annual Adirondack Champlain Regional Salt Summit is another avenue for ongoing outreach and education. This event, co-organized The FUND for Lake George, the Ausable River Association, Lake Champlain Sea Grant and AdkAction, brings together a number of stakeholders, including local municipalities and business owners, state legislators, and representatives from NY Department of Transportation, NY Department of Environmental Conservation, and NY Department of Health.
In 2018, Randy Preston noted, “we look forward to working with NYS DOT and DEC in coming up with a solution that will be good for all. Continued monitoring will gauge our collective success.” Thanks to the past efforts of Preston and many others who are passionately working to reduce harmful road salt use, the Adirondack Park is one step closer to achieving that vision today.