WAYNE - With more winter weather looming, salt is in short supply, and plow contractors across the state are scrambling to find as much as possible.
Rock salt has become a hot commodity in the frigid winter, and with all of the recent snowstorms, there simply isn't enough salt to go around.
The owners of Canete Landscaping ordered its usual 4,000 tons last summer and have already had to reorder. "We look at an average of what we've used in the past three years and that's how we base our order going forward," says Tom Canete.
Many municipalities say they only have enough to coat main roads. Before the last snowstorm, Paterson only received a small fraction of what it ordered. "We did not get our salt quantity as expected," says Mayor Jeffrey Jones. "But I understand most towns faced the same challenges. When you don't get what you pay for, it's a problem."
Contractors say most of the salt arrives by ship from countries like Brazil and Italy. According to the Salt Institute, there is a backlog, not a salt shortage. Suppliers just haven't been able to get it to everyone largely because the entire northeast needs it at the same time.
"There are no barges in sight for another two weeks," says Joe Porta, of Canete Landscaping, "so we have to stretch what we have as long as we can."
"What we're doing to stretch the salt is mixing in about 1/3 grit to 2/3 salt," says Canete. "That gets more mileage out of the salt and still gives people traction."
Both town officials and contractors say suppliers have been raising the price of salt between the time of order and time of delivery. The mayor of Paterson says he may ask the state attorney general to investigate.