Warwick residents propose salt ban in village center

  • Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Thursday, January 18, 2018

WARWICK — Looking to improve the safety of Warwick’s well water, the Salt in Drinking Water Committee proposed instituting a salt ban in the village center during Tuesday’s Selectboard meeting, but to no avail.

The Selectboard unanimously voted to table the discussion until after a pre-scheduled presentation by Mike Smith of Baystate Roads about the rationale behind salt and sand procedures. The board felt the presentation, set for Tuesday at 3 p.m. in Town Hall, would help it arrive at a more informed decision, though some residents were disappointed by the decision to hold off.

“I was hoping the Selectboard would in fact institute a no-salt policy,” Ted Cady, chairman of the Salt in Drinking Water Committee, said Wednesday. “I think that the concerns of citizens about public health is a pretty serious matter.”

The health effects

The no-salt proposal came after testimony from residents who believe high sodium levels in their well water led them to have abnormally high blood pressure.

Elizabeth “Betsy” Lochhead spoke to spending five days in the hospital, being treated for high blood pressure and attending monthly doctor’s visits that she says are linked to the sodium levels. Lochhead worried the same would happen to others if the salt ban wasn’t instituted.

Gail Beauregard told a similar story, saying her blood pressure was elevated despite a healthy diet.

“I finally decided it had to be the salt in the water,” she said.

According to “Healthy Drinking Waters for Massachusetts,” a 2007 report by the UMass Extension, sodium in drinking water normally presents no health risks, as about 99 percent of daily salt intake is from food and about 1 percent is from water. However, elevated sodium in water is a health concern for those on salt-restricted diets.

While there is no standard set for sodium in water, the report states, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends sodium levels not exceed 20 milligrams per liter for individuals on no-salt diets.


Members of the Salt in Drinking Water Committee, which was formed as an advisory board to both the Selectboard and Highway Department, used a salometer to measure salt in 15 houses’ water within the town center. Of those, Cady said, 9 water samples were found to have sodium above the recommended levels.

Additionally, the committee surveyed 29 residents, with 28 stating they support a no-salt policy in the village center, Cady said. The village center would be defined as from the town center west to Mt. Grace Avenue, south to North Holden Road, east to Old Winchester Road and north to the Warwick Community School driveway, while including part of Hastings Pond Road.

Residents who attended the Tuesday meeting hoped for action sooner rather than later.

“I think this is a matter that should not be taken lightly,” said Olivier Flagollet. “You can bring all the salt experts in the world to Warwick, but they’re not going to lower these people’s blood pressure. … I feel if we keep putting salt (on the roads) on a regular basis, we’ll never get our water back.”


Hoping to find a solution that still keeps the roadways safe, the Highway Department tested different methods of road care this winter season with varying degrees of success, including using straight sand, decreasing the amount of traditional dry rock salt-sand mixture used, and implementing segmented plow blades.

Though Highway Superintendent Larry Delaney felt using straight sand produced disappointing results, as it does not keep snow from binding to the road and is later blown off by passing cars, multiple residents thought the sand was satisfactory and suggested more frequent plowing.

“Once (the snow’s) stuck down there, plowing is not going to get it off,” Delaney said. Though the segmented plow blades have improved road maintenance, he said they’re “not the magic answer.”

Delaney said his department has already been using half the recommended amount of road salt in the town center with reasonable results, and there are low salt zone signs to prepare drivers entering the town center.

Under the Salt in Drinking Water Committee’s no-salt proposal, the Selectboard, police chief or another Selectboard appointee would have the authority to “declare an ice emergency and authorize the minimum amount of salt application for the center of town,” the proposal reads.

Reach Shelby Ashline at: sashline@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 257