Roads department steers clear of salt shortage jam
BY STEVEN WARBURTON
Staff The United Counties of SD&G managed to avoid a road salt shortage that plagued a number of other Ontario municipalities this winter.
“It’s not affecting us because we are a big buyer, like a preferred customer,” says Ben de Haan, Director of Transportation for the Counties.
He says that the Counties purchases about 24,000 tonnes of salt in a typical year and that next year, it’s on track to pay about $3 million for salt.
“We’re not in any danger of running out of salt but we will be very low at the end of the season. Our staff is keeping an eye on the salt levels.”
He adds that because of the shortage, the Counties supplier, the Mississauga-based Compass Minerals, has placed limits on how much they will restock.
“If we asked for a thousand tonnes, they would give us 500 tonnes,” he says. “They are trying to share around.”
Mr. de Haan says the Counties are in better shape than a lot of other municipalities because it can store a year’s worth of salt in the four domes throughout its territory. Plenty of that salt was used thanks to the high snowfall, freezing rain, and intense storms that have battered the region recently.
Out west, the low salt supply has so affected cities like Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo that they have used sand on back roads so that their dwindling salt supply could be used on higher priority routes.
Ryan Morton, Director of Public Works for North Glengarry, says that things aren’t too bad for him either because he goes in with the counties and the City of Cornwall when it comes to salt purchasing.
“We cover ourselves for this kind of thing,” he says. “I think the shortage is affecting the grocery stores and retailers of salt than it is the municipalities.”
It’s really hurt Mike Viau, operator of Viau Interlocking and Landscaping in Lancaster, who says that the price of salt has gone up by 50 per cent. That’s problematic for him because many of his contracts have fixed prices, meaning he can’t raise his rates to cover the extra expenses. To make things worse, salt suppliers told him that they wouldn’t sell any more salt to contractors as they had to save it for municipalities and highway workers.
The shortage has been caused by last year’s harsh winter, a strike at the Goderich salt mine and flooding at American mines near Cleveland.
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COMFORTING APPLICATION: While we are always advised about cutting back on our salt intake, road salt is definitely welcomed when one is navigating an icy road at night.