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Pittsburgh Continues to Struggle with Salt Supply

The city of Pittsburgh could see as much as 4 inches of snow Monday night, according to the National Weather Service, and city officials are worried salt supplies won’t keep up.

The city is expected to receive a 500-ton shipment of rock salt Monday and Tuesday from its supplier, American Rock Salt. This morning, the city had less than 100 tons of salt.

Chief Operations Officer Guy Costa said the city uses between 800 and 1,000 tons of rock salt for every inch of snow on the roads.

“We’re also working on getting 500 tons of a combination of sand and a granulated limestone,” he said. “We’re going to mix all the ingredients together and spray it with liquid calcium.”

The liquid calcium will melt the snow, and the sand and limestone will act as an anti-skidding agent, according to Costa.

He also said main roads, school zones, steep hills and tight curves are going to receive the most treatment. Flat, secondary roads will only get plowed.

“We have the manpower, we have the equipment, we have the funding to do the job, but unfortunately we don’t have enough materials to do the job,” Costa said. “We’re going to do the best we can with the materials that we do have.”

This winter has taken a serious toll on the region’s salt supplies. The city typically uses 40,000 tons of salt every winter; so far, it’s used more than 50,000 tons with more than four weeks to go until spring.

On Friday, the city purchased 300 tons of rock salt from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. It was gone by Saturday.

To ration the remaining salt, Costa said the city isn’t concerned with getting the roads cleared. They’re just trying to make them passable.

“We just don’t have the materials to take care of it,” he said. “No one has the materials to do that at this point here in Western Pennsylvania.”

For the state roads, it’s a different story.

Officials with PennDOT District 11, which maintains state roads in Allegheny, Beaver, and Lawrence Counties, said they have adequate salt supplies to make it through the next storm and are in the process of ordering more.

The Erie, PA native has been a fellow in the WESA news department since May 2013. Having earned a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Duquesne University, he is now pursuing an M.A. in multi-media management. Michael describes his career aspiration as "I want to do it all in journalism."