Municipalities running low on road salt

Keeping the streets clear this winter has taken a lot of salt. At this point, with more snow falling, some cities and towns are struggling to get shipments in fast enough to keep up.

Amherst Highway Superintendent Bob Anderson said, “This winter has been hard on everybody. Our equipment is showing its wear and we have more breakdowns, our people are working night hours and day hours, so they’re getting tired and weary.”

And as the snow piles up, the piles of salt get smaller. In the Town of Tonawanda, the barn is already empty.

Tonawanda Highway Superintendent Bill Swanson said, “We need 200 tons a day to salt all the streets at least once and unfortunately we are only getting a hundred tons a day, so we have to be real careful with how we salt and do things right now.”

The town has a contract with North American Rock Salt and drivers are struggling to bring in their shipments from Canada. As the snow piled up Wednesday, the plow trucks were out non-stop but the salt trucks remained parked.

Until more salt comes in, crews will focus on the main streets and intersections.

“There will be some spots in the middle of the block where they will have to be a little more careful until we get some more salt, but safety wise no, we will have it all along the stop signs and intersections,” Swanson said.

Gernatt Asphalt in Springville sells a sand-salt mixture to many local municipalities.

“We’ve run into the problem where the salt company that we buy from has limited us to 50 tons a day,” said Jeff Gier.

So what is normally a one-to-one mixture has now become three parts sand, one part salt.

Gier said, “We’re really going to push the sand and we’re just trying to keep everybody happy. It’s tough right now. The salt acts as a traction agent. When the salt doesn’t work as well, the sand will give you a good grip on the highway.”

Gernatt Asphalt has received calls from Michigan to Long Island as truck drivers look for salt.

News 4 contacted several other highway departments and many are  starting to run low. In Amherst, Anderson said this January alone, the town used 9,000 tons of salt. Last January Amherst used just under 1,400 tons.

“Although we have enough salt on hand right now it’s a proposition that we have to wait and see and hope this ends very soon,” Anderson said.

All of that extra salt is piling up bills for local highway departments.

Anderson said, “Our budget is to the max right now and of course our budget goes by calendar year, so it begins in January and ends in December. So even if this was the last snow event we have right now we still have to look at November and December as part of our snow season.”

“We only plowed twice last winter and this year in January alone I’ve used just as much money as I did in five months last year,” Swanson added.

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