Kentuckiana salt supply may run short this winter - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Kentuckiana salt supply may run short this winter

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Salt will be expensive and hard to come by this winter and the price will affect businesses and customers.

Everyone remembers last winter -- round after round of snow, ice, and treacherous roads. Salt supplies dwindled, and they are still not built back up.

"With the harsh winter, the repetitive snow storms we had, everything got consumed. So going into this season, nobody had anything left," said Carl Gering, Safety and Security Director for Caudill Seed -- one of the largest suppliers of salt in the metro area.

But even the company can't by salt in bulk -- only by the bags.

"Will there be enough supply out there?" Gering asked, then answered: "Yes, if we have a regular winter. No, if we don't," he said bluntly.

The city of Louisville says it is prepared to treat roads.

"Prices are increasing this year by over 47 percent, said Harold Adams with Louisville Metro Public Works. "We paid $56.216 a ton last year; this year we'll have to pay $82.98 a ton. Right now, the city has 27,000 tons bought at last year's rate. Louisville is just shy of full capacity, which is 35,000 tons.

Last year, Louisville used 41,000 tons of salt. The year before? Only 11,000 tons.

"The folks at our roads department are pretty on the ball, and they knew that demand situation was going to create this increased price, they got as much as they could at the old price," said Adams.

Transportation officials in Kentucky and Indiana have noticed the price spike. Indiana experienced the highest increase, at 57%.

Statewide, Kentucky is at 63 percent capacity of its 302,000 tons of salt storage. Officials anticipate being close to capacity by November, but salt supply experts say it is a given that cities and state road departments get first dibs. So, who will feel the pinch?

"Everybody," said Gering. "Hospitals, airports, all of them, it'll affect all of them. Your cities and everything are trying to get their salt piles built back up."

John Ridgill, the owner of Louisville Tree Service, says customers will see a hike in prices for salting and plowing services.

"You pass along the cost, whatever increase there is," Ridgill said.

As far as how much of a jump customers will see, Ridgill predicts a hefty one.

"Probably 10 to 20 percent I'd say. So if you're charging $150 an hour to plow (last year), it might be $175 an hour (this year)," Ridgill said.

At the hardware store, bags of salt may be at least $2 more than last year.

"There's a lot of consumers that just sort of buy as they need it. I would plan on planning ahead this winter. If you have the opportunity to pick some up, take it," advised Joe Autry, manager of the Home Depot on Breckenridge Lane.

Others predict the price per bag could double from last year.

"I saw salt last year was averaging around $4 a bag so maybe $8 a bag -- if it's available," Autry said.

And as the winter looms, it will be harder and harder to get salt.

Much of the salt Louisville uses comes from Weeks Island, Louisiana. It takes 4 to 6 weeks to get salt up the river on a barge into Louisville.

"And that is if it doesn't get snagged at a port before us or a port after us," Gering explained. 

So for now, the advice is: stock up when you can, and be prepared to pay more.

"As long as we have a regular winter we're OK," said Gering. "If we have a harsh winter like last year, all bets are off."

The city of Louisville's budget for salt is $1.4 million. Last year, it spent more than $2.3 million on salt.

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