SARANAC LAKE - The Town of Harrietstown is taking proactive steps to make sure its salt and sand storage area isn't contaminating Lake Colby.
Supervisor Larry Miller said performing a chloride test at the site of the highway garage on John Munn Road is a good idea, considering the Village of Saranac Lake just avoided a potential lawsuit over its salt pile on Van Buren Street.
"We want to avoid going through a similar situation," Miller said. "We have an open salt pile - we know that, we realize that."
In June, the Adirondack Council filed a notice of intent to sue with the village. Spokesman John Sheehan told WNBZ the salt was leaching into Colby Brook and contaminating Lake Colby. Shoreowners say they've been monitoring the situation since 2003, and that chloride levels have been rising consistently.
The lawsuit threat prompted the state Department of Environmental Conservation to file a consent order with the village. Officials on both sides agreed to alleviate the problem by covering and/or moving the pile until a permanent solution could be reached.
Miller says Harrietstown will seek help from Paul Smith's College for the testing.
"I've spoken with their president, John Mills, and he says he'll see if the college's environmental program can do the testing for us," he said.
If that arrangement falls through, the board said it would allow Miller to contact Canton-based environmental firm Atlantic Testing Laboratories. He added that some concerns have been raised that Harrietstown's salt pile could be contributing to the Lake Colby contamination.
Along with testing at the John Munn Road site, samples will be taken from three existing test wells at neighboring Griffith Energy. That will provide feedback on chloride levels in the wetlands surrounding the town garage.
This fall, Miller says the town will proceed with plans to erect a storage facility for the sand and salt pile on John Munn Road. Whether or not the village signs on for a shared-services plan remains up in the air.
Earlier in July, Harrietstown said it would not share a storage shed or pole barn at the village-owned site on Van Buren Street - leading some to believe that the town had no interest in collaborating with the village.
Miller clarified the town's stance last week.
"We have every intention of working with the village on this," he said. "But we want to do it at the town's site."
"We've been trying to work with the village to do a sand-salt shed together," Miller said. "I think this board, in the fall, will be looking at some type of proposal if we don't get our Green Innovation Grant in August, as to some way of covering or building a salt shed and maybe downsizing what we need to do if we have to go it alone - though we would rather share and work with the village to do that."
The federally funded Green Innovation Grant would give the town $800,000 to use toward the construction of a pole-barn or storage shed to cover sand and salt. The grant requires a 10 percent match, although Miller noted it can be fulfilled through in-kind services.
Miller added that the town already has the preliminary go-ahead from the Adirondack Park Agency for the potential construction of a storage facility.