Looking for salt? You may not find any

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If you’ve been looking for salt for your walkway from local Huntsville retailers you’ve probably noticed they’re all out of stock—that’s because salt is at a premium province-wide.

While this is the time of year when salt supplies typically dwindle as winter makes an exit, shortages have exacerbated the problem. A 12-week strike at a salt mine in Goderich last summer has meant less inventory.

“They told us late summer last year that they would not be able to supply us and that they would only be supplying municipalities that they had contracts with. In other words, they would have penalties if they ran out,” explained Hutcheson Sand and Gravel Limited COO Don Mackenzie. “So they cut us off. We had to source salt from suppliers in the city who are also contending with the same shortage.”

Mackenzie said flooding at a Cargill salt mine in Cleveland also impacted supplies and last summer speculators began sourcing material offshore from places like Chile and Egypt, and bringing it to Toronto.

“So we have been dealing with one of those suppliers that we do other business with and he happens to also have salt, so we sourced our salt there but we’re paying substantially more than what we’d normally pay as a result, and that’s been the situation right from the beginning of the winter,” said Mackenzie, estimating that the cost has increased by more than 50 per cent.

Steve Hernen, Director of Operations and Protective Services for the Town of Huntsville, is hoping for a quick end to winter. Area municipalities get their salt from Parry Sound where it’s shipped in by boat.

“Over in Parry Sound where they bring the salt in to the big docks, they’ve gone through a year-and-a-half supply. It’s been such a weird winter, everybody has used so much salt that they’re out of salt in Parry Sound,” said Hernen. “It doesn’t affect Huntsville because we got our salt early in the year and mixed it with our sand… but we have a deal with the District and the District has secured a supply so we’re in good shape but I know there are other municipalities that have no salt and they’re calling around trying to find salt.”

Hernen said Huntsville brought in a full year’s worth of sand and had to restock. “So most places have run out of their sand and their salt, everybody has probably used one-and-a-half times what they normally do.”

Like others in the area, Seth Rudin, president of Muskoka Rock, said his business has also been impacted by the salt shortage.

“Our regular salt provider from whom we have been purchasing salt for resale for many years significantly increased our 2018/2019 pricing, leading to increased pricing for our customers. Furthermore, they put a strict quota on the amount of salt we could purchase for those prices. With the cold winter, combined with the significant snowfall, our original supply was depleted. This meant we had to find and secure an additional supply for our customers. Fortunately, we were able to secure the additional supply, however, this came at an increased cost yet again,” he noted in email correspondence.

“End result, we were able to maintain a consistent supply of salt this winter season for our customers to access, however, the prices were substantially higher than previous years. From the beginning of the year and throughout the season, we have been communicating with our customers to ensure they have as much details and notice, both regarding supply and pricing,” Rudin said.

“So everybody is just under a crunch,” said Hernen. “And if we have a long spring we could be in trouble at the Town. Even though we put up more sand, we did that in February, we could run out again.”

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3 Comments

  1. All I can say is get used to it: climate change will bring us winters like this for the foreseeable future. Sand is the best alternative, and for extremely localized areas, cat litter is acceptable.

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