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AUSABLE WATER WISE: Take the salt survey for Lake Placid

With the salt survey, residents’ winter maintenance practices will help the Ausable River Association determine where and how much salt is entering Mirror Lake. (Provided photo — Leanna Thalmann)

For the past seven years, we’ve conducted intensive monitoring of Mirror Lake, making it part of our core water quality work at the Ausable River Association.

In 2014, AsRA’s science staff first documented elevated chloride concentrations in the bottom waters of Mirror Lake.

In 2015, we determined the lake was no longer mixing like it was supposed to in spring. This disruption in turnover (lake mixing) is due to the use of salt for deicing surfaces such as roads, sidewalks and driveways throughout the watershed. Salt used on these hard, non-porous (or impermeable) surfaces is readily mobilized as snow melts and moves overland and into stormwater drains leading to Mirror Lake. The heavy salt-laden water sinks to the deepest part of the lake and, due to its density, can disrupt spring mixing. This mixing, or spring turnover, is essential to redistributing oxygen and nutrients in a lake. Without it, the lake is vulnerable to algae blooms and fish kills — events that would be devastating for the Lake Placid community and for the dense web of ecosystems and aquatic life that call it home.

You can help us understand the lake. Ausable River Association just launched a salt survey for residents, businesses and independent contractors in Lake Placid, with an emphasis on Mirror Lake. Developed in partnership with the Adirondack Watershed Institute, the survey is essential to determining the amount of salt entering Mirror Lake and the Chubb River from homes and private businesses. Funded by the Lake Champlain Basin Program through a multi-year technical grant, it’s another piece of AsRA’s ongoing science-based effort to understand the inputs of road salt to Mirror Lake.

The salt survey is specific to residents and businesses in the Chubb River watershed. The watershed encompasses the area surrounding Lake Placid and includes the village of Lake Placid. Completing the survey will take approximately 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the area that you care for in your winter maintenance. Not sure if you live in the Chubb River Watershed? Email us at salt@ausableriver.org.

Survey questions include what you use to remove snow and ice — for example, a shovel, snow blower, sand, salt, and/or brine. We also are trying to gauge the level of service that is desired. For example, is the goal of your winter maintenance to achieve hard compact snow without ice, wet pavement with some residual snow and ice, or completely dry pavement? There are no right or wrong answers in terms of quantities used or goals. Instead, it is essential to get an accurate accounting from all private users of salt.

The online survey can be completed via this link: bit.ly/3JxbpSk. It can also be provided over the phone, and a print version can be made available by contacting the Ausable River Association. Complete the survey by April 9 for a chance to win a $100 gift card to The Bookstore Plus or a $100 gift card to Green Goddess Natural Market.

To learn more about AsRA’s work on Mirror Lake, visit ausableriver.org.

If you have any questions about the survey or wish to receive a survey, please contact us at salt@ausableriver.org.

The Salt Use Reduction Initiative is also supported by the Lake Champlain Basin Program, the North Elba Local Enhancement and Advancement Fund, Adirondack Foundation-Nancy Adams Sweet Family Fund and Holderied Family Community Fund, Cloudsplitter Foundation, Village Lake Placid, Town of North Elba, the Mirror Lake Watershed Association, and many other generous private donors. Gift cards were donated by The Bookstore Plus and Green Goddess Natural Market.

(Leanna Thalmann is a water quality associate at the Ausable River Association.)