Salt shortage affects snow removal companies and streets dept. - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Salt shortage affects snow removal companies and streets departments

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MADISON (WKOW)-- Many parts of the country including Southern Wisconsin are experiencing a salt shortage. The high number of snow events this year has used up a large amount of the nation's supply.    

While the winter may not be the snowiest or longest one on record, the number of snowfalls is well above average. Snow plows have been out cleaning the roads at least three times a week since the winter started. In December and January alone, private snow removal company Olson Toon says they sent crews out between 35 and 40 times.

"The worst thing this time of year is ice. You use two to three times more salt during those events and that will really eat up everybody's supply. That's exactly what we don't want right now," Olson Toon Chief Operations Officer Aaron Olson says.

Olson Toon keeps about a thousand tons of salt on hand to protect themselves from moments like this, but with so many calls for service they're starting to run low. Some companies are starting to mix in sand to conserve what little salt they have. Others who have run out completely are using just sand alone.

Municipalities are also feeling the effects of the shortage. Some city street departments have run out and are forced to pay high prices to refill their stock. The Madison Streets Department says they have plenty of salt to keep them going for the foreseeable future, but just in case we see a few icy days over the next few weeks they decided to bring in some additional salt from an Iowa distributor. The shortage caused them to pay an extra $25 a ton. To put that in perspective, the department normally uses between 10,000 and 18,000 tons of road salt every year.

For private companies who operate under contract, they're forced to absorb this extra cost of doing business until suppliers can catch up with demand and replenish their salt reserves.

"It's going to be bad for the next couple of years I feel. They've really got to stock up in these ports, otherwise it's not going to get any better next year," Olson says.

Consumers may see a jump in pricing on salt you buy at the hardware store. Right now stores in the Madison area say they have plenty of bags on their shelves, but in other parts of the country stores are sold out.

A popular hardware store chain Ace Hardware says demand for salt products has risen by 250% this Winter. Top supplier Morton Salt says they've sold more than three times as much salt as they did last year.

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