Shortage of salt is a concern

ELKINS – Heavy snows, frigid temperatures and frozen roads this winter have put many local agencies in a pinch by creating a road salt shortage.

The city of Elkins, the West Virginia Department of Transportation and the J.F. Allen Company all report more road salt is being used and less is in reserve than in previous years.

J.F. Allen has a building on its property in which the company stores massive amounts of salt.

“Thirty-five thousand tons is the max capacity for our building,” said J.F. Allen General Manager Steve Sherrard. “We only have two or three hundred tons left of the original 35,000.”

“There is a little bit left here, but it is dedicated to the state. We have several thousand tons on the rail between Cleveland and here that is suspected to be here Monday or Tuesday,” he added.

The city of Elkins is also coping with a lower amount of road salt being available than in previous years.

Operations Manager Bob Pingley said, “(The city’s salt reserve) is lower than we would like it to be and I don’t know we are through the bad weather. We have used well over 100 tons and we normally use around 60 or so. We got a little spoiled the last couple winters.”

Mike Moran, district engineer for District 8 of the West Virginia Department of Transportation, said the district has 3,000 tons of salt and 1,500 tons of abrasive mix in reserve, a situation he described as “comfortable,” though he noted the state is still trying to conserve.

“Here in District 8, which includes Pendleton, Pocahontas, Randolph and Tucker counties, we have a comfortable amount of salt,” Moran said. “On pretty days we are in the process of moving some from our facilities to others within the county that need it.”

Different methods are being used to conserve salt throughout the agencies to ensure that enough salt will remain for the rest of the winter weather season, he said.

The DOT is using a salt brine solution on the roads to help use less salt.

Moran said, “We are trying to conserve where we can. We are also toying with some of the mix ratios.

“We have moved from a 3 to 1, abrasive to salt mix, and have been toying with 4 and 5 parts abrasive based on the conditions.

“We are comfortable but trying to conserve since winter is unpredictable and can go on until April,” he added.

Sherrard said some are adding de-icing stone to help conserve salt. De-icing stone is an eighth-inch sized rock that is mainly used to help with traction.

“De-icing stone supplies immediate traction while the salt is melting the ice,” he said.

Pingley said this winter the city of Elkins used small gravel to help with traction issues. He noted plans are in the works for a brine system for next winter.

“What we have started doing is mixing small gravel in with the salt to make it last longer.

“We don’t typically do it because it’s hard on our sewer system. We don’t make a practice of it but we are in a little bit of a pinch so we are doing what we can,” Pingley said.

“We are going to look into a brine system for next fall,” he added. “It is something we definitely want to give a try this fall and winter.”