A swampy field behind the Van Buren, N.Y., highway department facility used to be white with salt, according to superintendent Ed Parks — not exactly an environmentally friendly way to store the stuff. Today, the town has a building that solves the environmental problem and performs additional functions year-round.

The salt pile was about 300 yards from a large creek that flows into the Seneca River about a mile away, and testing showed that it had contaminated the waterway. Clearly, something had to be done, and the question for the town was two-fold: “What do we do?” and “How do we pay for it?”

In nearby Salina, Parks had seen a salt storage building he liked, a Hi-Arch Gambrel by Elmira, N.Y.-based Advanced Storage Technology. The building provides an interior clearance of at least 30 feet, so tractor-trailers can drive inside, lift their beds and dump salt directly under cover, eliminating piles in the yard and thus preventing the major cause of runoff.

Parks contacted the company in February 1995, but town officials were not ready to commit the cash necessary for such a purchase. In 1998, Van Buren turned to the Liverpool, N.Y.-based consulting firm, Barton & Loguidice Engineers, which studied various options and prepared the necessary engineering report that the town needed to apply for another possible source of funding.

Van Buren found its funding in the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, administered by the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation. Under the program, communities can apply for loans for environmentally beneficial projects, including salt storage buildings, replacement of underground tanks and cleanups. The program offers interest-free short-term loans and low-interest long-term loans. The town was able to obtain a loan at just over 2 percent interest to help pay for its new facility.

Today, Van Buren boasts a 60-foot-by-96-foot salt storage building that stores its supply of salt and sand in the winter and shelters other items during the summer. In addition, lean-to structures on both sides of the building are used to store sanders and equipment. On one side, an enclosed and locked area houses pumps for the town's Water Department.

The lean-tos replace old barns that the town demolished. “It looks a lot neater now,” Parks says.