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Not Salt-Strapped

Salt and sand in storage on North Pleasantview Road.

Salt and sand in storage on North Pleasantview Road.

To a list of things jumping up in cost this winter, add road salt.

The grainy, pebble-sized mineral used to melt ice and snow off roadways is selling for as much as $185 a ton. A nationwide salt shortage is the reason, Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation (PennDOT) said Tuesday (Oct. 21, 2008), and at current prices it’s too expensive for many municipalities to afford … if they could find it to buy it.

More than 100 Pennsylvania boroughs, townships and villages couldn’t, so after examining its salt inventory and estimating winter needs PennDOT this week sold them 82,000 tons of the stuff from its own supply. At the highest market price, that would have been a $15.2 million sale. PennDOT charged buyers only $77 a ton, less than half the top rate.

Neither Lower Pottsgrove (PA) Township, or any township in Montgomery County, were among those scrounging for salt. Two Chester County townships were on the buyers’ list, however, as were two Delaware County boroughs.

The sale was “unprecedented,” PennDOT said, and won’t be repeated.

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