By Karen Kroll – Original Article
As another winter approaches, snow and ice removal likely will be top of mind. These days, the environmental costs of traditional snow and ice removal methods are a growing concern. The chemicals often used to melt snow and ice can damage buildings and pavement, and the run-off can harm plants and bodies of water.
To be sure, the chlorides or salts currently used by many facility professionals to melt snow and ice likely will remain around for some time. Many are familiar with their use. In addition, salt typically requires less upfront investment than some other options.
At the same time, more facility managers are considering ways to adjust traditional snow and ice removal methods to reduce their impact on the environment. They’re also looking into new options that are entering the market. “As buildings have become more sustainable, facilities professionals now are thinking more about their environmental impact outside the building,” says Nate Clemmer, chief executive officer with SynaTek Solutions.
by Joseph N. DiStefano, Staff Writer – Philly.com
Nate Clemmer’s SynaTek Solutions was busy Tuesday in advance of another Nor’Easter storm threatening to drop piles of snow and freezing rain around Philly: He’s shipping his company’s new, high-end Entry liquid ice melt to clients including Amtrak’s 30th Street station and some of Brandywine Realty Trust’s Philadelphia-area offices. The Denver Broncos NFL team is also a client, though Colorado is on a different storm cycle.
Entry, marketed through SynaTek’s Branch Creek organics division, is “non-salt, residue-free,” Clemmer says. It’s not sodium chloride or any other chloride, which tend to eat into pavement and can be tough on fresh-water creatures. Entry uses potassium formate, derived from formic acid, a common and easily-synthesized compound. Its name derives from the Latin word for ants, who use it in self-defense.
Potassium bioformate is “biodegradable” and is “not toxic, not persistent (or) bioaccumulative,” though it will irritate your eyes and other sensitive membranes if you spray it in, according to Material Safety Data Sheets posted by manufacturers under U.S. and European law.
Formate is produced and licensed as a deicer by BASF, the German chemical giant. BASF sells the stuff “as an airport runway de-icer in Europe, but it was not available here until 2015″ when he licensed it for home and business applications, Clemmer says. BASF produces the stuff at a plant in Louisiana, then ships it by tanker rail car to Souderton, where SynaTek packages it as a liquid spray. “It’s like ‘their flour, our chocolate chips’,” Clemmer told me. “No nasty granulars. It keeps every floor and sidewalk from turning into a mess. It does not track into buildings. It is residue free.”
It’s more expensive than salt or potassium chloride; the company says a single application to a typical home walkway and front sidewalk costs about $5.50, or 90 cents just for front steps, compared to pennies for salt. “It’s not a parking-lot product, it’s an entry-way product you use in the first 15 or so feet when you enter or leave a building,” to avoid damaging landscaping or tracking white salt onto rugs and into offices, Clemmer added.
Branch Creek is the latest product line for a hometown family business that dates to 1869. “Souderton was four corners then — a bank, a bar, a church, and a feed mill,” Clemmer told me. “We owned the [Mennonite] church and the feed mill. I wish we’d had the bank and the bar,” he cracked. The bank grew up to be Union Trust (Univest), one of the largest lenders still based in the Philadelphia area. The feed mill in its current iteration is SynaTek, still in Souderton, with branch offices and warehouses in Wisconsin, North Carolina and other states.
The football team’s headquarters say goodbye to granular salt deicers and hello to a better alternative.
Brooks Dodson is the Director of Sports Turf & Grounds for The Denver Broncos Football Club and that is no small feat. He is responsible for approximately 26 acres of property at The UCHealth Training Center—the corporate headquarters of the Denver Broncos.
Therefore, when winter rolls around, he is the one responsible for the highly valued football stars’ safety, players who cannot afford any slip-and-fall accidents and sit out the entire season. Add to that mix the amount of media, staff and fans that visit the property and come through the center’s doors—and walkway safety is a must.
“Getting everyone in/out and around the facility safely is our responsibility, and we take that seriously. We don’t want anyone hurt,” said Dodson.
As a result, every year, Dodson’s facility staff would bring out the calcium chloride—various salt deicers—and apply it with a spreader or a cup to prevent slippery walkways. However, the rock-salt product residue would be dragged indoors, damaging carpets, tiles and concrete in and around the buildings.
“When you are handling or spreading bags of ice melt … you can smell it and if the wind is wrong it’ll get in your mouth and you can taste it. I don’t know about you, but I prefer not putting that type of stuff in my body,” he added.
Dodson decided it was time to seek out a more environmentally friendly product—in the form of a liquid.
He attended the Sports Turf Managers Association tradeshow last winter and found just that in Entry. Entry breaks down hydrogen bonds formed when water freezes. As a result, once the product is sprayed, it removes thin layers of ice and snow, and prevents new snow from accumulating or icing. Entry reduces the freezing point of water to approximately minus 63 degrees Fahrenheit.
After meeting the manufacturer of the product—SynaTek Solutions—at the tradeshow, which uses BASF’s chemistry, Dodson tried out the liquid product and never went back to the bagged granular salt again.
“Entry performed exactly how we had hoped,” Dodson added. “Application is very simple and there is no residue. Entry is environmentally friendly and performs faster than the granular products we have used in the past.”
In addition to the newer liquid form of deicing being cleaner and faster acting, it is also environmentally friendlier—since Entry is easily biodegradable, and chloride and urea-free, so it doesn’t damage the ecosystems—which is important to the Denver Broncos facility manager.
“We try to be good stewards of the environment. We are very cognizant of the products and chemicals we use around our facility and the impact they have on our environment, not only on-site but downstream as well,” said Dodson. “Colorado is a beautiful state and water is one of our most valuable natural resources, specifically groundwater. The products we use ultimately run off into our creeks, rivers and reservoirs. We want to make sure we are doing all we can to eliminate or minimize any negative impact on our environment and our water sources.”
Entry is used all around the UCHealth Training Center, specifically at entryways, concrete steps and sidewalks, and in front of the team store that garners a high amount of traffic. In fact, although the Denver Broncos stadium is located 25 miles north of the UCHealth Training Facility, its operators caught wind of Dodson’s use of this new liquid deicer and its benefits, and now they are picking up the product to use for the stadium, according to Dodson.
“Entry is a cleaner, safer, effective product that does not destroy your concrete or building interiors,” he concluded.
SynaTek Solutions is an innovator and producer of turf products and technologies in the golf, landscape, agro and ice melt industries. The company manufacturers Entry and distributes it through their Branch Creek and Secure Winter Products brands.
The 2018 Farmer’s Almanac, which published in mid-August, predicts cold temperatures and above-average precipitation from the Great Lakes to the Northeast U.S.: “Snowier-than-normal conditions are expected,” the annual periodical predicts in its famous long-range weather forecast.
Even if you doubt the veracity of this 200-year-old publication, the fall season’s arrival brings with it one certainty: it is “prep time” for snow and ice removal, meaning now is the time to investigate the array of de-icing materials to ensure the greatest possible efficacy at the lowest possible cost.
Retail and restaurant business managers must consider how to de-ice areas requiring careful attention: wheelchair ramps, wider sidewalks and decorative — sometimes delicate — stone or other custom walkways — while being mindful of de-icers’ impact on metals in light fixtures and railings as well as nearby plant life. And, understandably so, retailers and restaurants are increasingly unwilling to accept stained and damaged floors and carpeting due to de-icing material being tracked into their establishments.
As we all know, preventative action is much more cost-effective than restorative efforts. So, here are the five key performance criteria we believe retailers and restaurants need to consider when evaluating de-icing materials:
- Speed of melt: While chloride-based granular de-icers take a minimum of 3 to 5 minutes to achieve an acceptable melt — and as much as 10 minutes — potassium formate quickly and reliably removes thin layers of ice and prevents new snow and ice from accumulating. In fact, one particular liquid de-icer has a speed of melt of about 30 to 50 seconds. With this product, the freezing point is reduced to approximately minus 63 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 53 degrees Celsius).
- Potential for tracking residue on carpeting and floors: Focus on what we call the “DMZ” zone outside your establishment; 90% of granular ice melt tracking on floors and carpets is the result of pedestrian traffic within the first 15 feet of the building entrance. When tracked into a store or restaurant, sodium chloride granular de-icers leave a white residue that can dull the finish of floors and fade the color of carpets. Calcium and magnesium chloride-based products coat floors with an oily, slippery residue that damages wax and urethane finishes, posing a safety risk to employees and visitors. A neutral pH formulation is designed to eliminate tracking, reducing near-term labor costs associated with manual cleaning, estimated at $50 per entrance per day, according to the International Sanitary Supply Association’s Clean Management Institute. In the long term, this reduces the need for full strip and re-coats, a significantly higher expense.
- Eco-friendliness and non-corrosivity: Calcium, sodium and magnesium granular chloride products are all hydroscopic, meaning they draw moisture from the atmosphere. Such materials are harmful to pets if swallowed, and certain chloride-based products like calcium chloride can seriously burn the paws of animals. In addition, chlorides will dehydrate turf and ornamentals and cause desiccation. If leached into waterways, they reduce the available oxygen levels, leading to the death of fish and aquatic plants. And, chlorides are corrosive to metals and, to varying degrees, to concrete and will reduce the functional life of structures such as railings and doors. Look for a liquid de-icer that is 100% chloride free and is readily biodegradable. It is safer for pets, plants, metals and concrete.
- Ease of application: Ease and speed of application combined with reduced transport and loading costs make using liquids extremely attractive from a labor perspective. Using granular products can be very labor intensive, slowing the application process and negatively impacting safety in high-traffic pedestrian areas. In many areas, such as stairs, applicators have to carry heavy bags, spreading material by hand. In larger areas and walkways, push spreaders may be utilized. But, liquid applications are far more efficient. Liquid tanks fill very quickly, and today’s liquid applicator (i.e. spray) technologies are accessible and easy-to-use, providing for very precise application rates.
- Cost-efficiency: If a liquid de-icer doesn’t require much actual liquid to produce an adequate melt, and is fast and easy to apply, it makes for a more cost-effective product than many granular ones. Most users will achieve a lower application cost per 1,000 square foot with this liquid de-icer than with granular de-icers. And, because the liquid achieves a melt three times more quickly than granular products, it creates a longer-lasting and safer walking surface.
As a retail or restaurant business manager, you know the primary reasons to clean: appearance; health and human safety; and asset preservation. When it comes to preparing for and cleaning during a snow event, you can now accomplish all three.
There are four keys to running a successful snow removal operation according to David Ross, president of Snowscapes, a commercial snow removal company based in Hackensack, New Jersey:
- Specialize in serving a specific type of customer. Focusing on one particular sector allows your team to fine tune their operations, limiting waste and maximizing profit.
- Dedicate yourself and your team to delivering the highest quality service through education, certifications, training and detailed operational plans.
- Utilize top quality materials and machinery. The initial cost may be greater, but the loss suffered from inferior products and equipment will prove to be far greater.
- Never rest on your laurels.
Snowscapes began 30 years ago as a lawn care company. Like many such enterprises, the company added snow removal services in the winter months, but soon began to focus only on snow removal. After providing these services to both commercial and municipal customers, Ross made the decision to focus solely on commercial accounts.
The speed and efficacy of Entry along with low application labor costs make using Entry far more advantageous than applying a pellet or flake.
Utilizing Better Technology
In 2016, Ross learned about Secure Winter Products’ Entry, a de-icing and anti-icing fluid based upon formic technology. Entry quickly and reliably removes thin layers of ice and prevents new snow and ice from accumulating. In fact, Entry’s speed of melt is 30 to 50 seconds faster than the liquid the company was using previously. At a 50 percent concentration, the freezing point is reduced to approximately minus 63 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 53 degrees Celsius).
Like other liquid de-icers and unlike most granular de-icers, Entry is readily biodegradable, does not contain chlorides that can damage ecosystems and eliminates the sticky, slippery residue on floors and carpets that is common with granular products and some liquids. And Entry has a virtually neutral pH of 7.8, lower than other liquid products which can cause damage to flooring and concrete surfaces. It is safer for pets, plants and metals and provides rapid and reliable results.
Saving Time and Money
Snowscapes used Entry during approximately 80 percent of the company’s 2016-2017 winter events. “The speed and efficacy of Entry, along with low application labor costs, make using Entry far more advantageous than applying a pellet or flake,” Ross notes. “We achieved greatly reduced application costs per 1,000 square feet compared to when we applied solids only.”
When we switched to a liquid de-icer, we chose one of the leading brands. We were pleased that it provided all the advertised advantages of liquid de-icers over granular products, and we felt that using a liquid enhanced our reputation.
As for the speed of melt, Ross says, “Most granular products take a minimum of five minutes to achieve an adequate melt, while some liquids take less than two minutes. Some liquids are more effective at lower temperatures than most granular de-icers, too.
“When we switched to a liquid de-icer, we chose one of the leading brands. We were pleased that it provided all the advertised advantages of liquid de-icers over granular products, and we felt that using a liquid enhanced our reputation. But, we’re always looking to improve our company’s processes. So, we kept the door open to finding another effective liquid de-icer.”
Delivering Quality Service
Now that Snowscapes focuses solely on its snow removal service, much of the summer months are spent training drivers/applicators and doing dry runs. “Because our typical customer has more complex surfaces—not simply large, square parking lots—we believe training helps us do the best job possible in the winter months,” Ross says. “High-traffic, high-liability areas are where the site’s employees and visitors might suffer a fall. It’s also where they might track de-icing materials into buildings, damaging the flooring and carpeting.”
For narrow sidewalks, Snowscapes uses sidewalk specific machinery equipped with spray tanks. For large walks, tank sprayers are attached to utility vehicles, pickup trucks or agricultural tractors, which apply the liquid de-icer from a spray nozzle extended from the side of the vehicle while driving parallel to the sidewalk.
Each year, environmentally friendly ice melt products claim a larger percentage of the ice melt and de-ice market. A variety of products claim to be environmentally friendly, and some of them have found particular success in the consumer market where environmentally conscious homeowners with children, pets or gardens often are willing to pay a little more for a safer product.
In the commercial snow and ice removal business, the demand for environmentally friendly products also is growing – enough so that many products lay claim to the green label with some pretty creative logic — e.g., chloride-based products are safe because they are “naturally occurring elements;” salt mining is “safer for the environment” than other forms of mining; the transportation of bulk materials by barge minimizes emissions versus transportation by truck).
The fact is, however, that most chloride-based products cause some form of harm to humans, pets, plants and aquatic life. Sodium chloride products, or rock salt, cause irritation and burns to the skin and eyes and, if swallowed, to the mouth, throat, and digestive tract. The products’ deleterious effects are true for dogs, too.
Calcium chloride-based products can burn human skin when contacted. If inhaled, dust particles can cause severe irritation. If ingested, they can cause severe irritation and bouts of vomiting and diarrhea. They irritate dogs’ paws and, worse, are poisonous to canines. When spread into gardens and onto vegetation, calcium chloride products can have a defoliating effect on trees and other plants.
Magnesium chloride-based products are considered better for the environment than those made from sodium and calcium chloride, but they cannot be considered child and pet friendly ice melts. All three chloride-based products are hygroscopic. They absorb moisture from the air, and they pull moisture from hands, skin and vegetation.
Finally, if chloride-based products leach into waterways, they reduce the water’s available oxygen levels, leading to the death of aquatic life.
Beyond health and environmental concerns, chlorides also are corrosive to metals and, in varying degrees, to concrete, asphalt and stone walkways, and they will reduce the functional life of structures, such as railings and doors.
Liquid de-icers are a new alternative to chloride-based ice melt products. One such product based upon formic technology is 100 percent chloride free and is readily biodegradable. It is safer for pets, plants, metal, concrete and other surfaces. In fact, its toxicity LD-50 oral rate is 81 percent lower than calcium chloride and approximately 46 percent lower than calcium magnesium acetate, rock salt and potassium acetate.
Ice and snow removal contractors have been attracted to liquid ice melt and de-ice products in recent years largely because these products are much easier to apply. There is no need to lug a bag of granular product across walkways and up and down stairways to apply and no need to continually dip a gloved hand or a scoop into the bag. Spray applications are far more efficient and easy to use, and they provide for very precise application rates.
For many maintenance and engineering managers, consumer concerns about child and pet-based eco-friendliness are viewed as of secondary importance. After all, children and pets typically are not traversing or playing on the grounds of office buildings and office parks. But an office’s indoor environment can be negatively impacted by some ice melt and de-ice materials.
When tracked into a facility, sodium chloride de-icers leave a white residue that can dull the finish of floors and fade the color of carpets. Calcium and magnesium chloride-based products coat floors with an oily, slippery residue that damages wax and urethane finishes, posing a safety risk to employees and visitors.
By contrast, the neutral pH formulations of formic technology de-icers eliminate tracking and leave virtually no residue. This reduces near-term labor costs associated with manual cleaning and provides for a safer environment.
Outdoors, formic technology de-icers create a safer environment more quickly than chloride-based de-icers. For example, some formic technology de-icers have a speed of melt of about 30-50 seconds by reducing the freezing point to temperatures as low as minus 63 degrees. These de-icers remove thin layers of ice and prevent new snow and ice from accumulating. By contrast, chloride-based granular de-icers take a minimum of 3-5 minutes – and as much as 10 minutes — to achieve an acceptable melt.
Most users will achieve a lower application cost per 1,000 square feet with liquids than with granular de-icers because of the ease and speed of application and the reduced amount of product needed to produce an acceptable melt.
Facilities maintenance personnel are finding that the benefits of liquid de-icers based upon formic technology – environmental friendliness, no damage to carpets and floors indoors or to surfaces outdoors, safer environments indoors and out, and cost-efficiency – make it easier for them to create a clean, safe environment.
As the variety of de-icing and anti-icing materials has grown in recent years, facility managers are tasked with balancing the plusses and minuses of the solutions available. Which are most effective – and most cost effective? What are the environmental impacts of the material used? How quickly and conveniently can the material be applied?
For most facility managers, a key consideration is how the de-icing and anti0icing materials impact the carpeting and flooring in their buildings. More than just an issue of appearance, when some materials are tracked into a building, they can cause permanent damage, increase maintenance costs – and pose a health risk to the building’s occupants and visitors.
Some of the most commonly used de-icing materials can cause permanent damage, leaving behind white residue that can dull the finish of wood floors and cause them to splinter. Carpeting can develop dry rot, fading the color.
When calcium and magnesium chloride-based products are tracked into a building, they coat floors with an oily residue that damages wax and urethane finishes. It also makes hard surface floors slippery, putting employees and visitors at risk for slip and fall injuries. These materials also degrade carpets by wearing out carpet fibers and attracting dirt.
To protect against floor and carpet damage, frequent upkeep is required during snow and ice events, which costs time and money.
An alternative to granular de-icing materials is formic technology-based liquid de-icers. Their neutral pH formulations eliminate tracking, reducing near-term labor costs associated with manual cleaning, estimated at $50 per entrance per day, according to the ISSA. In the long-term, this reduces the need for full strip and re-coats, which represents a significant financial investment.
It is understandable that the de-icing and anti-icing materials that are meant for outdoor use can be damaging to carpeting and floors when tracked indoors, but the salt residue left over from many products can also cause permanent damage to pavers, asphalt, concrete, masonry, decorative stone or other custom walkways and metal light fixtures and railings.
Calcium, sodium and magnesium granular chloride products are all hydroscopic, meaning they draw moisture from the atmosphere. If they seep into groundwater supplies or wash into lakes or streams, they reduce the available oxygen levels, harming aquatic wildlife. Salt-based ice melters may also erode soil, kill plants and burn grasses.
Formic technology de-icers are 100 percent chloride free and are readily biodegradable. They are safe for water, plants, concrete, asphalt, stone and metals.
While potential damage inside and outside is critical, we haven’t forgotten about the people – creating a safe environment for pedestrians. An important aspect of creating a safe environment is the time required to ensure safety. Granular de-icers take three to five minutes, often more, to achieve an acceptable melt.
By contrast, liquid de-icers based on formic technology quickly and reliably remove thin layers of ice and prevent new snow and ice from accumulating. In fact, some formic technology de-icers have a speed of melt of about 30 to 50 seconds by reducing the freezing point to temperatures as low as minus 60° F.
Determining the cost-effectiveness of a de-icing material requires consideration of a number of factors: speed of melt (discussed above), amount of material required to create a safe surface and the physical application process itself.
Ease and speed of application combined with reduced transport and loading costs make using liquids extremely attractive from a labor perspective. Using granular products can be very labor intensive, slowing the application process and negatively impacting safety in high-traffic pedestrian areas. For example, on stairs, applicators have to carry heavy bags, spreading material by hand, and in larger areas and walkways, push spreaders are often utilized. Liquid applications are far more efficient. Liquid tanks fill quickly, and today’s spray applicator technologies are convenient and easy to use, providing for very precise application rates.
The low quantity of liquids required to produce an adequate melt combined with speed of application make most liquid de-iciers more cost-effective. Most users will achieve a lower application cost per 1,000 sq. ft. with liquids. And, because the liquid achieves a melt three times more quickly than granular products, it creates a longer-lasting and safer walking surface.
So, when deciding what kind of de-icing material to use this winter, check three boxes: a safe surface outside, and reduced damage, both inside and out.
Nate Clemmer’s family wanted to go somewhere warm for Thanksgiving last year.
But Lake Placid was about to get hit with their first winter weather event of the season, and Clemmer needed to be there.
“While my kids were in the hotel room watching television, I was out in the parking lot testing different products,” said Clemmer, CEO of SynaTek Solutions, a Philadelphia-area company that develops organic de-icing alternatives to road salt.
Scientific evidence is mounting on the impacts of road salt on Adirondack lakes and watersheds.
New York State is the largest user of road salt in North America. Six million tons of salt have been deposited on Adirondack roads over the past 35 years, according to the Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute (AWI).
Local soils are thin and porous, which means most of this salt ends up in ground and surface water.
Levels in Lake George have increased threefold in the past four decades.
In Lake Placid, the Ausable River Association determined there are “significant long-term trends” of increasing sodium and chloride buildup in Mirror Lake, with concentrations up to 11 times higher than in the early 1970s.
This decline in water quality can have a deleterious effect on the environment, economy, municipal budgets — even property values.
Environmental groups are likening the salt buildup to the modern-day equivalent of acid rain, surpassing more well-known threats like stormwater pollution and invasive species.
“But the difference is you can solve it locally,” said Eric Siy, executive director of the FUND for Lake George.
‘Nothing Else Like It’
Siy was among the dozens of stakeholders gathered at the 3rd annual Salt Summit in Ticonderoga last week to discuss the latest science and best practices for reducing the use of road salt.
Among the keystones was an update on an innovative new pilot program designed to study salt application in the Lake George region.
For the past two years, the FUND for Lake George, who co-sponsored the conference, has been working with municipalities in the southern Adirondacks and an Ontario-based company called Viaesys to gather data.
A fleet of 20 plow trucks in eight municipalities has been outfitted with monitoring devices that measures applications and tracks exactly when and how much of the substance is being deployed — including during heavy weather events — and crunches the numbers.
“We do see there are a lot of potential areas of improvement — especially with training,” said Viaesys CEO Raqib Omer. “We do see some cases where a little bit of training can go a long way with the operators.”
To gauge the impact on public safety, cameras have been mounted at key locations in Lake George.
“We’re actually getting comparable or better results in terms of pavement conditions on those roadways with less salt,” said Siy.
Stakeholders aim to then take that data and develop best practices.
“There is nothing like it being done anywhere on the planet where we are connecting the dots of research and practical application of techniques to reduce the use of road salt,” Siy said.
While the long-term effect of salination requires further study, the impacts may have a cascading effect on the ecosystem, impacting species at the base of the food chain like phytoplankton and zooplankton, which serve as feed for fish and amphibians.
“If you see salt levels becoming too high and you’re dealing with native species in the lake that are salt-intolerant, it can upset the balance of the food web and have a dramatic effect on what everybody comes to expect when they come to Lake George,” Siy said.
Salt also can leach into groundwater supplies, like in Beekmantown in Clinton County, where the town is working with the state Department of Environmental Conservation on a remediation plan for contaminated wells.
While the taste can be inconvenient, there’s also more serious health concerns, including leaching from heavy metals and the impact on those with dietary restrictions.
AdkAction, an advocacy group that co-sponsored the conference, is about midway through testing 400 wells throughout the Adirondack Park.
“We hope it will give us a better understanding of the severity of the groundwater situation,” said Brittany Christenson, the group’s executive director.
AdkAction is also researching the impacts of salt on state and private vehicles, as well as on roadway infrastructure.
The AWI report revealed 84,700 tons of salt is applied to local roads, a number that rises to 108,000 for their state counterparts.
The report directly tied increased chloride levels to the latter owing to a higher road density.
“We’re trying to get the state of New York right now to eliminate the amount of salt it puts on Main Street in Lake Placid,” said North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi. “We all contribute, but the state contributes more. Salt is at a minimum in the Town of North Elba, but the state of New York is 100 percent.”
The state Department of Transportation dispatched a panel of staffers to the conference, a prospect that heartened stakeholders.
“That part of the dialogue is very important,” said Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky.
Bryan Viggiani, a DOT spokesman, said the agency has long worked with local officials and advocacy groups within the Lake George watershed and statewide on road maintenance practices that protect both the environment and public safety.
“What we heard at the summit was that all users of road salt — both public and private — are contributing to increased salinity in water bodies within the watershed,” Viggiani said via email.
The state employs a number of best management practices to reduce salt use while still protecting motorists, said Viggiani, including reducing application rates, using automated material spreaders to control salt use, calibrating equipment routinely, using GPS in equipment and applying salt brine and alternative materials when appropriate.
“It is incumbent upon every snow and ice practitioner to utilize best management practices to minimize salt use,” Viggiani said. “The New York State Department of Transportation continually refines its winter maintenance practices to provide for safe travel with minimal environmental impacts.”
Navitsky said the coalition imagines a scenario in which all stakeholders benefit.
“Better equipment, better approaches and better practices will make it more efficient for the towns and save them money while maintaining safe roads and protecting our environment in the long run,” he said.
Ticonderoga Supervisor Joe Giordano called the research “eye opening.”
“When (highway superintendents) see the bottom line — which everyone is looking at when it comes to savings — that will be a bigger take-home message as well,” Giordano said.
Reducing salinity also requires support from the general public.
“Unless you do this in a way that has road safety as the paramount concern, you are not going to get broad buy-ins in reducing the use,” Siy said.
AdkAction hopes their “hold the salt” campaign — which includes car magnets — will boost awareness.
Others say the public will pay more attention if the issue is brought directly to their doorsteps — literally.
Branch Creek, a subsidiary of SynTek Solutions, has developed a biodegradable de-icing agent called Entry.
The product, Clemmer said, is designed for small-scale applications — namely a 15-foot radius outside of homes, businesses, hospitals and public sidewalks.
While Entry was designed to be environmentally-friendly, customer feedback reveals the chief selling point is that it cannot be tracked indoors — not necessarily because of the environmental ramifications.
But Clemmer said it’s important to keep hammering on the green elements in order to facilitate a broader public conversation.
“If we’re going to be successful in reducing salt in Lake George and the Adirondack region as a whole, we need to get people that live in this community to understand that,” he said.