The Northeast Is Running Out Of Salt

Halfway through winter in the Northeast, there’s been so much snow that supplies of salt for roads are running low in some areas, and prices are going up.

In a statement issued Tuesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) will supply municipalities on Long Island with an extra 400 tons of salt.

That should help them deal with the current winter storm, and tide them over until they can restock.

According to the statement, NYSDOT has already used 46,000 tons of salt on Long Island this winter. In a standard winter, it uses a total of 30,000 tons.

The salt shortage has also hit New Jersey, according to ABC, where cities are rationing supplies. Side streets may not be salted in Fort Lee, where salt supplies are four to five days late, NBC reported.

“The shortage is real” and “prices are beginning to rise rather dramatically,” said John Allin, who ran his own snow removal business for nearly 30 years. Allin now works as a consultant for municipalities and non-profits (such as colleges) who need help creating contingency plans for winter weather.

Prices have doubled in places, and could triple, he told Business Insider. About half the cost of a ton of salt is for transportation, usually via trucks. So bringing it in from areas where there’s extra in-stock is not a cheap option. He recalled ordering extra supplies from Cincinnati when he was a contractor, and said the cost was “horrendous.”

Public agencies like DOTs have the advantage over private contractors for public safety reasons, and often have to right to “go in and commandeer private piles if they run out,” Allin explained.

Most buy salt under contracts that let them purchase an extra 20% on top of the original order, for the same price per ton. After that, “they pay the going rate.” Salt supplies don’t run out completely, and if they did, we could switch over to spreading sand, though it’s less effective.

The real pain will be felt by private contractors,who can’t just commandeer more supplies. Anthony Uliano at National Snow Removal in Syosset, New York said prices have gone up, but “not dramatically.” He added, “we’re doing ok.”

Snow INC, in Port Washington, New York, is having a tougher time. Owner Bill Bonni said the price he pays for a cubic yard of salted sand has doubled, from $US50 to $US100, and supplies have been hard to get.

If this level of snow and ice keeps up, he said, “We’re gonna have trouble.”

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.