Mild weather helps swell Pittsburgh-area salt surpluses
Many Pittsburgh-area municipalities are on a reduced-salt diet this year.
Last year's mild winter left them with stockpiles of the rock salt they buy by the ton to spread on slippery roads, so they're purchasing less this year, which helps because the price is rising.
Lou Gorski, director of the The South Hills Council of Governments, said salt prices climbed slightly from $55.83 per ton in 2012 to $57.04 per ton this year because of contract extensions and rising fuel prices.
SHACOG's purchasing alliance bid for rock salt for more than 100 Allegheny County municipalities and 12 communities in Butler County.
Last year's mild winter — part of the warmest year in U.S. history, the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., reported last week — left most municipalities with salt surpluses.
So officials ordered less rock salt for this year at the higher price to keep roads clear.
“We have about 9,000 tons (of salt) on hand, all bought at last year's prices,” said Joe Bonkowski, public works supervisor for Robinson. “We had to make up some temporary bins... just to hold it.”
Regardless of whether it all gets used, public works departments must accept delivery of 60 to 80 percent of their initial orders, depending on how their contracts are written.
“We cut our order for this year from 8,000 tons to 4,000, and we'll still have to buy 3,000 tons no matter what,” Bonkowski said.
Some places, including Munhall, West Mifflin, Glassport and Ben Avon, ran out of storage space for 2012's salt order and had to pay the supplier an extra $5 per ton to store it for them.
“Many municipalities around the area found themselves contemplating the requirement to buy and no place to store,” Gorski said.
Mt. Lebanon built a surplus nearly large enough to cover a winter's worth of road treatment, said Public Works Director Tom Kelley.
Mt. Lebanon's salt dome and storage yard hold about 5,100 tons of salt after the municipality used 1,700 tons to treat the post-Christmas snowstorm, Kelley said.
He recently ordered about 1,000 tons. In a typical winter, the municipality uses about 6,500 tons of salt, he said.
The late-December storm reduced Cranberry's stockpile by about 1,000 tons, which should lower the cost of storing its excess, said Public Works Director Jason Dailey. That's because the township must pay a contractor to cover its extra salt to protect it from the elements, he said.
Cranberry's order will shrink slightly from 4,500 tons of salt to 3,800, though new machinery to convert the dry salt to liquid brine may help workers stretch the supply further, he said.
The North Hills Council of Governments coordinates 18 other communities' salt purchases and is buying their salt for $60.42 per ton — the same price as last year, said Executive Director Wayne Roller. His members cut back on their orders for 2013 by 10 percent to 15 percent, he said.
In Beaver County, Monaca did not cut its order of about 750 to 800 tons of salt per year, but Manager Mario Leone anticipates taking delivery of less than the full amount.
“With the rest of the winter ahead of us, we're projecting to go through the same amount that we usually do. ... We're probably going to be closer to the 60 percent than the 100 percent,” Leone said.
Bob Callen, executive director of the Beaver County Council of Governments, said most of the 21 communities he covers met their expectations for salt consumption and would not cut back much.
Pittsburgh Director of Public Works Rob Kaczorowski said the city orders salt as it goes, keeping a stockpile of about 24,000 tons by replacing whatever it uses not long after each storm.
Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Add Matthew Santoni to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Gulls fleeing frozen Great Lakes fill skies over Pittsburgh’s Point
- CMU software eases task of mining prostitution ads
- Pittsburgh police say officers in video did not use excessive force
- Pa. Turnpike claims software fraud, wants $45M
- Allegheny County assistant public defender Capone charged with lying to court staff
- Overnight snow delaying schools in Western Pa.
- Pittsburgh mayor denies ethics investigation into his ‘Undercover Boss’ performance
- Week before sentencing, Ferrante seeks acquittal or new trial