Tough winter draining road salt supplies

ST. CLAIRSVILLE The recent extreme weather conditions are taking a toll, and many communities reporting they are running short on rock salt and facing delays in receiving shipments of fresh material.

ODOT Press Secretary Steve Faulkner said ODOT does its purchasing during the summer. This involves reaching out to the communities for an estimation of how much salt will be needed during winter. He noted that communities can join the ODOT contracting process or purchase material on their own.

The amount is provided to salt companies for bidding. Individual communities then reach out to the salt companies.

Belmont County Engineer Fred Bennett reported on the shortage.

“We bid on a state contract in spring,” he said, adding that the county can order 3,000 tons, with an option to order 20 percent more or less with the price locked in. This winter saw a carryover of 1,500 tons from last year. The county ordered 2,000 tons and received delivery of 800.

“We called them back a week ago for more. We’re waiting on delivery,” he said. While they are mixing the salt with cinders and grit to stretch the amount, he noted the stores are running low. His office is in contact with the salt company and hopes to receive the remaining 1,200 tons, with the possibility of ordering the remaining 1,000 tons. He added that the county was fortunate that last year’s mild winter meant a large carryover.

In Harrison County, Doug Crabtree of the engineer’s office reported the bins were out of salt as of the middle of last week. He said the road salt bin holds a maximum of 250 tons. The county was to take delivery of 200 tons earlier that week, but none had been received as of Thursday. He added that deliveries are typically made by tractor trailers carrying loads of 2,200 tons. He said his office has used 1,300 tons, twice the normal amount used in winter. Crabtree said a hold has been put on selling to townships and municipalities.

“All we have is cinder mix. We do not have any of the straight salt,” he said, adding that he hopes to receive deliveries this week.

He added that roads are currently passable but drivers are urged to use caution.

St. Clairsville Service Director Dennis Bigler reported 100 tons in storage and an effort to stretch rock salt. The city has awaited an order for close to a month and orders are usually received in a week. However, no immediate problems are foreseen since there is a good supply onhand and the city is able to extend its use by mixing it with sand screenings.

Bigler added that about 400 tons are used every year and they city filled the bins last spring with the prior agreement. This has carried the city through.

“We’re definitely using more than normal,” he said. “We’re supposed to be guaranteed 150 tons upon request. We haven’t gotten it.”

Richland Township Trustee Greg Bizzarri said the township ordered 300 tons of rock salt Jan. 6 and got a load Thursday of two truckloads totaling 48-50 tons. He said this amount could last a week. He said deliveries are normally received in about seven days. The maximum capacity is 600 tons.

Bizzarri said that 120 tons of grit had been purchased.

“Normally we use straight rock salt,” he said. “We got two of 12 loads and we’re hoping for more (Friday).”

He said current plans include removal of ice before the rain starts. They are hoping for better weather conditions in the meantime. Credit went to the crews who plowed throughout the weekend.

Martins Ferry Service Director Chuck Bennett said he ordered 200 tons Dec. 30, with 100 tons in stock.

“Since then, I only got half of this order in. We have used up all the orginal 100 tons and the last 100 tons I got in. We’re owed 100 tons from the initial order,” he said, “It’s whatever they can get to me.”

He added that the city recently purchased 40 tons of sand-slag product to mix with remaining salt to last longer and give traction. Snow removal had to be curtailed Sunday until the snow stopped. Crews were out until 8 p.m. Sunday to finish plowing. They worked about 12 hours on snow removal Saturday.

“We’ve alreayd used up the same amount this year as we used all of last year, and we’ve still got a good month and a half or more of snowy conditions,” he said. “Everything else is going well, except for the cold.”

“It’s not available,” said Shadyside Street Superintdentent Jay Meek, adding that the village was put on a waiting list and could not be informed when a new load would arrive, although a load was received early in the week. More has been ordered but he was given no available date.

“Last week I ordered 54 tons. We went through half of that today,” he said this past Wedensday.

“We’ve gone through about 100 tons of rock salt. The last two years we didn’t have a very bad winter so we didn’t use probably half of that,” he said. “It’s been an awful bad winter.

Denise Lauer, spokesperson for Morton Salt, said the delays were regrettable.

“This is one of the toughest winter weather seasons in recent years. Within the last month, our customer orders have surged due to the continued cold weather and snow events across the region. The high demand for salt can delay deliveries as we try to balance the needs of all our customers. We’re exploring all options to replenish their salt supplies as quickly as possible, such as running extended hours of operation at our production sites and stockpiles to accelerate shipments to customers,” she said.

“Morton produces salt year-round to keep a steady supply available to its customers. Within the last month, customer orders for road salt have risen dramatically. There are many factors that may impact road salt deliveries during a harsh winter. Logistics can become a challenge when the majority of customers want salt at the same time. Weather conditions can also impact the timing of deliveries. For example, extreme cold conditions can affect the smooth operation of equipment and delivery vehicles.”

DeFrank can be reached at