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Depleted salt supplies tax communities around South Hills

| Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

Being conservative where rock salt is concerned has helped some South Hills communities this winter.

Borough public works Supervisor Denny Kunkel has been mindful of the numbers.

“This winter has depleted everyone's supply,” he said.

After public works crews used 75 tons of salt following the Feb. 17 snowfall, Kunkel estimated there about 300 tons remaining in the community's stockpile. About 15 inches of snow this month means that officials have to be even more mindful of how much salt they're using, as communities across Western Pennsylvania deal with sometimes delayed shipments of salt when they need supplies the most.

Frozen rivers earlier this month prevented barges traveling from West Elizabeth, Ohio and Louisiana from making deliveries, Kunkel said. As of Feb. 17, he was still waiting for an order placed two weeks earlier.

“Salt can also come by rail car, but with barges, there are greater quantities, better prices, and it's easier to offload,” he said.

Pleasant Hills can order salt at $57.52 per ton through the South Hills Council of Governments, a group of community leaders who work together on common issues.

A conservative approach to keeping the borough's 30 miles of roads clear is to try to conserve salt, officials said. Jefferson Hills Public Works director Tom Lovell told his crews to plow first, then salt.

And if roads are clear enough after the plowing, flat stretches won't get much salt at all.

In 2013, $170,000 was budgeted and spent to get drivers through the winter, maintaining 43 miles of streets. This year, $175,000 was set aside.

In mid-February, Lovell's department had 300 tons left — enough, he said, to get the borough through one big storm or two small ones.

“We're doing everything we can,” Lovell said. “It's not for lack of trying, but lack of materials.”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or ddreeland@tribweb.com.

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