Why didn’t Saranac Lake tell us about salt in water?

To the editor:

The village of Saranac Lake’s drinking water now comes with a warning label: too much salt for some people. That’s the opening line from the Adirondack Explorer’s recent article dated June 12. It’s certainly news to me. The salt level detected in 20 samples, per the village’s 2019 Water Quality Report, was 53 milligrams per liter. It goes on to say that water containing over 20 mg/l is too high for people on severely restricted sodium diets. So 53 mg is over twice that, but shy of the 270 mg/l limit for people on moderately restricted sodium diets.

This information is found in the “fine print,” as the Adirondack Explorer accurately describes it, of the 2019 Water Quality Report. Did the village of Saranac Lake make an effort to notify the water drinking public? I ask this because I saw no notification, and although I received a copy of the report, I definitely did not read the “fine print.” Maybe I missed the notification. As a person who restricts sodium intake, I was surprised and alarmed to read this.

I will be very interested to learn more about the village’s efforts to understand the source of this salt contamination. There is no naturally occurring salt where we live. For the many people around here who have salt in their wells, the source is always road salt. Any talk about naturally occurring salt or animal waste or water softeners is meritless. Improper water softener backwash can pollute a personal well but not a municipal system like the village uses. All of our road salt ends up in the river, via runoff and storm drains. The village of Saranac Lake’s drinking water comes from wells not far from the river. Barring a strange problem with the 20 samples and the water tests, the salt is road salt. An ongoing and periodic testing protocol for sodium would produce a data set of sodium levels over time — testing, say, weekly, or bimonthly. That chart might show seasonal fluctuations in salt levels corresponding to the presence of salt in the river. The river could be tested, too. It would be helpful to know the actual highs and lows of sodium over a year’s time.

It’s about science and transparency in government. Although the state apparently does not mandate notification in this case, it seems that those among us who are on severely restricted sodium diets would be informed as a common decency or simple courtesy.

Dan Reilly

Saranac Lake


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