Road salt prices skyrocket, alternatives sought
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS (WLS) -- It could be a lot tougher to get around this winter.
There's a shortage of road salt. And that means prices have gone way up for the salt that is available. Many communities, struggling because of the nation's financial crisis, are looking for creative solutions to keep roads clear.
Last winter's heavy snowfall put a great strain on many communities' snow-removal budget. Those costs were already skyrocketing for this winter.
"This year, our first 5,000 tons we had to pay $73 a ton for. And the next 2,000 tons we paid $130 a ton," said Scott Shirley, Arlington Heights Public Works.
"Last year, we budgeted $175,000. This year, we're spending about $630,000 on the same amount of salt," said Kenneth Miller, Mundelein Public Works.
According to the salt industry, the reasons for the rapid price increase are weather related. Last winter's heavy snow throughout the Midwest caused a spike in demand. Then flooding on the Mississippi River this past spring caused an interruption in salt barge traffic carrying supplies northward. But not everyone is convinced that these are the only reasons for the staggering price increases.
"I don't know that the natural phenomenon, including the flooding along the Mississippi, is the whole story. I just think that there's some margins that need to be worked on as far as the salt companies, what they have to provide to certain areas," Shirley said.
The Illinois Attorney General's Office is now looking into the salt price situation, but it will take time before they are done with their investigation. In the meantime, many communities plan to reduce their salt use especially during off hours.
Another conservation method being used is blending the salt with a special liquid mixture.
In Arlington Heights, they're attaching containers to all of their salt trucks. In the containers there will be a blend of calcium chloride, brine and, of all things, sugar beetS.
By adding the so-called super mix, it's estimated that salt usage can be cut by 20 percent.
If we do have another snowy winter, you might want to change your plans on those harshest days.
local, phil schwarz
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