Getting a grip on the cost and impact of rock salt: part one

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This is the first story in a series digging into the economic and environmental costs of using rock salt. Each week News10 ABC will explore the multiple aspects of this issue as it concerns N.Y, its counties, cities, towns and villages.

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- Road salt was first used experimentally beginning in 1938. By the winter of 1941-1942 municipalities across the U.S. spread 5,000 tons of rock salt, according to a report from the Cary Institute located in Millbrook, N.Y.

Since then the use of rock salt in the U.S. has increased exponentially.

In the winter of 2017-2018, 1.28 million tons of rock salt was used in N.Y. alone based on data collected by Clear Roads. Across the country the use of rock salt has doubled its use since 1975 to approximately 22 million metric tons in 2017.

It’s effective but it isn’t cheap. The cost of rock salt is substantial for state, counties and municipalities. The N.Y. State Thruway Authority bears the highest cost burden. In the 2019 budget , $11.5 million was reserved for highway snow and ice control.

The N.Y. Office of General Services (OGS) has contracts with 5 companies to provide up to 3.1 million tons of rock salt for counties statewide between Sept. 1, 2019 and Aug. 31, 2020. The contract details can be found on the OGS website.

County rock salt suppliers

Source: https://online.ogs.ny.gov/purchase/spg/awards/3210023131CAN.HTM

A review of the contract revealed the overall average price per ton for all 5 suppliers is $66.44. Albany, Rensselaer and Schenectady counties all purchase their rock salt through Apalachee Salt, LLC for $54.89 per ton. Saratoga County purchases theirs through Morton Salt, Inc. for $64.72 per ton.

Albany County set aside $1.35 million in the 2019 budget for road treatments including salt, calcium chloride and sand. A representative indicated the county is already over budget and has spent $1.4 million this year. Saratoga County also allocated $1.3 million in the 2019 budget for highway supplies related to snow and ice control.

A representative for Schenectady County indicated the county has used 6,000 tons of rock salt this year at a cost of approximately $329,340. Rensselaer County expects to use 19,500 tons of rock salt by the end of the year with a cost of $1.1 million.

The next part of this series will dive into the environmental impact of rock salt, what are the alternatives to using rock salt and what steps the state is taking to reduce the environmental harm associated with it.

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