Road Salt Shortage Puts Miami Valley On Thin Ice

Jan 21, 2014

Dayton-Yellow Springs Road coated in snow in December 2013.
Dayton-Yellow Springs Road coated in snow in December 2013.
Credit Lewis Wallace / WYSO

 

As new rounds of rough weather hit the Dayton area this week, cities and towns are facing a fresh problem: salt shortages. Road salt is in short supply in the Miami Valley after a harsh winter that started early and has brought multiple heavy storms.

“We’re getting deliveries but we’re getting slow deliveries,” said Fred Stovall, head of the public works department for the city of Dayton. The city ordered 5,200 tons of salt in early January, less than a third of which has arrived. 

According to Stovall, "Dayton alone has already spent over $700,000 on salt this winter, or 11,818 tons; the total was around $600,000 for the whole winter in 2012-2013 and the tonnage topped out just over 9,000."

Prices have also gone up, which particularly affects private snow plowers who can’t buy in the same bulk as cities and counties. Plow operator Jessie Aycock with Five Point Lawn Service and Plow Operators is happy to be busy, but says salt is turning into a burden.

“That’s kind of a scary thing for us,” Aycock said. “Everything’s becoming scarce.”

The shortage stems from Cincinnati, where salt shipments for the North American Salt Company are unloaded from barges and shipped north on trucks. A representative of North American Salt said the company is shipping salt from its mines as quickly as possible, but  has not been able to replenish inventories quickly enough to keep up with the numbers of storms this winter. Cargill is also a major salt supplier in the area, but doesn't seem to be experiencing the same delivery delays.

Regardless, municipalities are planning ahead in case either supplies or weather worsen in the coming weeks, and limiting salting on residential streets in order to conserve.

“We’re gonna go with alternate materials, you’re gonna see sand and grit being used,” said  Beavercreek Superintendent of Streets John Woltja. “People in the Dayton area [will] have to be a lot more careful, because the roads are gonna be slicker, all over.”