Reduced road salt practice saves hundreds of thousands of dollars

November 29, 2023

LAKE GEORGE — By following Sustainable Winter Management (SWiM®) standards, which optimize the use of road salt, two municipalities saved a combined $400,000 last winter. Just as important, they decreased the amount of road salt used by 25% to 40%. 

These were just two of the significant results shared at the 8th Annual Adirondack Champlain Regional Salt Summit on October 3, 2023, by highway departments for Washington County, NY, and the Town of Peru, NY, both of which were awarded SWiM certification at the Summit.

Speakers at 8th Annual Salt Summit

Phill Sexton, Managing Director of WIT Advisors, interviews Deb Donahue, Public Works Superintendent for Washington County, NY, and Mike Farrell, Highway Superintendent for the Town of Peru, NY, at the 8th Annual Adirondack Champlain Regional Salt Summit on October 3, 2023.

After two years of working with WIT Advisors, creator of the SWiM program, Washington County is now saving more than $300,000 a year by pretreating roads with brine before storms, plowing with Live Edge blades, and using 40% less road salt. This reduces the amount of salt that can make its way into groundwater and drinking water.

The county, which covers 17 towns, has also stopped using sand as part of its road management. Likewise, Peru used a minimal amount of sand in 2022-23, its first year of a reduced road salt initiative. According to Mike Farrell, Peru’s Highway Superintendent, this saved the town approximately $80,000 because it no longer needed crews to spend four to six weeks collecting sand in the spring.

Both Mr. Farrell and Deb Donahue, Public Works Superintendent for Washington County, said seeing is believing for their teams. “When the drivers save a lap and have more material leftover after a storm…they get behind the program,” said Ms. Donahue. Mr. Farrell concurred: “Drivers talk about how their numbers are continually getting lower.” To adjust road treatments in real time, plow operators use an anti-icing decision flowchart

Positive surprises have also emerged. Due to supply chain issues, Washington County switched from 12.6- to 9.5-density asphalt for summer road paving. The following winter, plow operators noticed the newly paved roads clean up more quickly. “Now 9.5 asphalt is all they use,” said Ms. Donahue.

For Peru, it was residents who astonished Mr. Farrell’s team. “In the spring we got postcards, emails, cookies, doughnuts, and coffee to say ‘Thank you. We don’t know what you’re doing, but it’s work.’”

But perhaps most essential to success for both Washington County and Peru has been the support from other entities. Mr. Farrell said he often leans on the towns of Hague and Lake George for advice, while Ms. Donahue called out the Lake George Park CommissionAdkAction, WIT Advisors, and Lake Champlain Basin Program. Putting it succinctly, Ms. Donahue said: “We learn from one another.”

Watch session videos from the 8th Annual Adirondack Champlain Regional Salt Summit.