Have some order regarding the odor

The New York state Department of Transportation has some answering to do, especially to Tupper Lake residents. Work on the new rail-trail, specifically the grinding of railroad ties, have left an irritating stench in the Washington Street area of the village and has made this part of the summer season almost unbearable.

In addressing the issue this week with the Enterprise, a DOT spokesman noted the mounds of wood chips will be gone soon, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation says it does not anticipate any negative environmental impacts from work being done to create a new rail trail between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid. While that is reassuring — for the future — it does nothing to bring relief at the present time.

These wood chip piles were left uncovered in a time when it’s been raining almost every day. The quantity of creosote-soaked wood, freshly shredded up and exposed to the air, may pose a risk to the chemical leaching into the soil and into waterways.

Multiple residents of Tupper Lake cannot open their windows and worry about the well-being of family members due to the awful odor. “The smell of the preservatives (which are likely carcinogenic) is overpowering and, I believe, is creating a public health hazard,” town Councilman John Quinn wrote in his email to the DEC. “In addition, the processed materials are being exposed to rains that are likely leaching the preservatives into groundwater and, possibly, nearby surface waters and wetlands.”

We think Quinn’s question, when he asked why the DOT didn’t just grind the wood directly into dump trucks and bring it to the landfill, has merit.

While summer is the best time for much of this construction work to be done, we do question whether officials — especially those not local — considered the impact this would have on the community. Multiple residents said they just wanted some warning and education about the chipping. The state could have given them a heads-up and reassured them that what they’re doing is legal and safe. It also brings to light a thought that more consideration must be given before wood chipping is allowed in areas that are close to residential neighborhoods or waterbodies. We question why this work wasn’t done further down the track, away from where people live.

Portions of Tupper Lake are suffering, even if it is only temporary. The chipping machine was in Saranac Lake this week, grinding up ties in the Cedar Street area. We hope the state will be more careful in its removal of the rest of the railroad ties and keep our communities up to date on the progress.


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