DOT Helping With Salt Shortages As We Prep For Another Storm

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We need salt. That is the plea from cities and towns around the state. So far, 22 communities have asked the state for salt, including Canton, East Haddam, East Hampton, Marlborough,Torrington, Bridgeport and others.

We need salt.

That is the plea from cities and towns throughout the state as 12 long-duration snowstorms this winter have depleted their supplies of road salt. So far, 22 communities have asked the state for salt, including Canton, East Haddam, East Hampton, Marlborough, Torrington, Bridgeport and others. The state is playing a major role in bailing out towns, allowing them to load up their trucks with salt at six state depots.

In the first move to ease the problem, a large barge was off-loading 30,000 tons of salt in New Haven Harbor on Friday — at the same time that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and top state officials held a news conference to spread the word about the salt. Another shipment to the state of 45,000 tons has been moved up and is now scheduled to arrive next Saturday. The state uses an average of 15,000 to 20,000 tons of salt per storm on interstate and state highways.

Malloy said that the state has enough salt for the highways, but towns handle the local roads, and some are running out. He asked Thursday for an emergency disaster declaration from President Barack Obama, so the state could get aid to help the towns.

“I want to encourage towns and cities to reach out to us if they need salt,” Malloy said Friday at the State Armory in Hartford. “Some folks have burned through the salt that they’ve had faster than other towns, and so we’re going to make sure that people have salt.”

The state Department of Transportation has already spent its full snow budget of $30 million for the year, which covers personnel, overtime, outside contractors and road salt at an average of about $100,000 an hour per storm. But money can be moved from other accounts to supplement the depleted snow budget, and Malloy said that the roads will be kept cleared in future storms. The 22 towns that will receive salt from the state will have to pay about $60 a ton.

From Middletown to Simsbury to Enfield, town officials said they could handle Saturday’s impending storm, but were unsure how they will fare after that.

In West Hartford, the town has enough salt to deal with Saturday’s expected snow, but no more, public works director John Phillips said Friday.

“We’re certainly at the ends of our limits,” he said. “We have 300 tons on hand, which should be sufficient for any additional snow this weekend.”

Phillips said he talked to the town’s salt supplier Friday morning, but “we have no confirmation of any additional coming.”

“Credit does have to be given to our crews,” Phillips said. “They’ve been masters at balancing public safety with conservation of material.”

In New Britain, public works director Mark Moriarty said that the city has about 300 tons of salt on hand — roughly enough for one average storm. A major ice storm could easily consume more than 600 tons, but a routine snowstorm requires much less salt, he said.

“You need some for hills and intersections, but if there’s just snow and temperatures aren’t very cold, then a regular snowstorm isn’t as bad,” he said.

New Britain is awaiting delivery of a 500-ton order from International Salt, a major supplier that is also providing salt for the state for the first time this year. The city went to International after its primary vendor, Minnesota-based Cargill Salt, stopped making deliveries earlier this winter.

“I’m optimistic right now. There’s another storm possibly coming in [Saturday], but if it does, it’s supposed to be just for a short duration,” Moriarty said. “I’m more concerned if there’s going to be a lot of overnight freezing.”

In Bloomfield, public works director John Lawlor said that the department has enough salt to get through the next storm because it has modified its procedures and also has a small supply of untreated salt it can convert into a brine.

“At some point in the very near future, we’re going to run out,” he said.

Lawlor said he appreciated the governor’s gesture, but questioned whether the state was in a position to share some of its salt supply.

International Salt, a secondary supplier to Bloomfield, is not delivering or telling the town when it will do so again, Lawlor said.

“We have no indication from our primary [Cargill] or our secondary suppliers that anything is coming in,” Lawlor said. “What concerns me is when or if the supply spigot is going to be turned back on.”

In Simsbury, public works director Tom Roy said that the town has some salt, but it’s questionable whether it’s enough. He said that he’s not certain about any future shipment of salt to the town.

In Enfield, public works director Jonathan Bilmes said Friday that crews will continue to use a sand and salt mixture on roads. After a series of four deliveries last week, Enfield received 92 tons of salt. The town originally ordered 400 tons, Bilmes said, but he had no indication when more salt will be delivered.

“We’re getting down there just like everyone else,” Bilmes said.

After Thursday and Friday morning’s storm, Bilmes said, it was hard to know exactly how much salt was left.

“There’s enough for another storm, but we’re stretching it out,” he said.

At Tuesday’s Enfield town council meeting, the department of public works will ask for more funding — enough to purchase another 1,000 tons of salt. The town expects four to eight loads of salt to be delivered Saturday, which would be half of its recent 400-ton request.

In Middletown, Mayor Daniel Drew said that the city is stocked with enough sand and salt mixture to cover more than 200 miles of city roadways in the upcoming storms.

“We usually fill up after every big storm, so we have a pretty good stock going here,” Drew said.

In East Hartford, highway services manager Paul Forrest said Friday that the town’s stockpile was dwindling.

“We’re very low today, but we have enough to stretch it out for [Saturday’s] storm,” Forrest said. “I can’t tell you exactly how many tons we have because we are now mixing with sand.”

The town might have enough salt left to start prepping for another possible storm Tuesday, but Forrest said the supply wouldn’t be enough to fully treat town roads for the entire snowfall.

Courant staff writers Shawn Beals, Ken Byron, Suzanne Carlson, Steven Goode, Jesse Leavenworth, Bill Leukhardt, Mikaela Porter, Nicholas Rondinone, Don Stacom and Julie Stagis contributed to this story.

By Christopher Keating.

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