Salt shortage causing concern for Wisconsin cities

Shortage hurting city, businesses
Salt shortage causing concern for Wisconsin cities

Salt supply dwindling from harsh winter

Two weeks ago, the City of Verona made a decision forced upon them by a barrage of snow, ice and cold conditions that exceeded normal conditions.

Each year, the Verona Public Works Department buys salt to treat roads based on normal conditions. To date, the city has sent plow and salt trucks onto streets to deal with 26 snow events and two significant ice events.

“It takes an enormous amount of material to create safe driving conditions and we’ve had two significant ice events so far this winter and it has gobbled up a lot of material,” says Ron Rieder, director of the Verona Public Works Department.

When the season started, the storage facility in Verona was filled with salt. The city purchased 1,375 tons of salt for the year. By early January, that supply had dwindled to the point where decisions needed to made.

“Two weeks ago the street superintendent and I made a decision that we needed to start mixing sand with our salt material,” says Rieder.

The mixture of sand and salt has drawn some complaints from residents because of the mess the sand causes for streets, driveways and garages. The city says safety remains the overriding factor and at this point the sand is needed to provide that safety.

The salt shortage is also being felt by other cities and municipalities in the area. The City of Madison’s salt supply was dwindling as a result of the seemingly nonstop string of snow and ice events.

The city has purchased an additional supply of salt that will allow Madison to get through the winter, but it came at a price. The city paid $20 per ton more for this new salt than it paid at the start of the year.

Private snow removal contractors are also feeling the pinch. Michael Krintz is the owner of Proscapes in Madison. He says this year his company has already used as much salt as it did all of last year. He is most concerned when he looks at the calendar.

“It is only Jan. 17 and we’re already seeing a shortage of, not only bulk salt, but 
bagged salt and deicer products that most consumers use and we use a lot of on sidewalks and if it is only Jan. 17 what is going to happen Feb. 17 or March 17?” says Krintz.

It is believed the shortage is being caused by several factors. Salt producers mine an amount based on average years’ use and significant winter conditions throughout the Midwest and East Coast have exceeded normal demand. In addition, the ice conditions on the Great Lakes have made it difficult for ships to deliver additional supplies of salt.