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Detroit Snow Removal Professionals Buying Extra Rock Salt in Preparation for Snowy Winter

Man with a snow shovel on the sidewalk

Snow removal contractors all around Detroit are stockpiling road salt in anticipation of another severe winter, and prices are growing as supplies are dwindling.

“We were proactive this year in getting salt, so we ordered basically the same amount that we used last year, had that ordered and delivered in August — which is very early for us,” John Baker, the owner of Metro Detroit Landscaping, told the local CBS station. “Normally, we wouldn’t get it until November, but there was already a shortage going into this season. We didn’t want to be caught without having it for our customers.”

In an average winter, Baker uses about 1,000 tons of road salt. He’s purchased 1,500 tons for this year.

Baker said he was able to buy his salt from the Niagara Falls area in Canada. But other contractors throughout the Midwest are saying that they’ve needed to look as far abroad as Morocco and Egypt for their supplies.

In November, Michigan Live reported that the Michigan Department of Transportation was preparing for a road salt price increase of up to 46%. “If we use the same amount as last year, the total bill for salt could top $40 million,” said MDOT Director Kirk T. Steudle.

But he said that MDOT won’t be cutting back, since salt is an important safety measure for public roads.

Road Salt at Home
Homeowners may also be looking to salt to help manage snowy or icy paved areas at home. But experts warn that salt can seep into the soil and affect plants, trees and other vegetation. Elevated sodium levels can cause shorter roots and subsequent problems with nutrient absorption.

If salt does get into planted areas, they’ll need extra care in the spring. “The winter’s damage can be seen in the spring. If you suspect rock salt has entered the soil near or around your plants, shrubs or trees, water the soil heavily in the spring to leach the salt out the soil,” June Fuerderer explained Dec. 21 in The Keene Sentinel.

Angie Hicks of Angie’s List suggested in a Dec. 19 article for the Detroit News that homeowners choose calcium magnesium acetate instead of rock salt (sodium chloride), since the former won’t cause toxic soil conditions. The downside, she notes, is that it can cost 10 times as much.

Hicks also laid out some snow removal tips. It’s important, she reminded homeowners, to use lightweight ergonomic snow shovels in order to decrease the risk of injury. Snow shovels should also be used to push, rather than lift, snow.

Given the risk that exertion can pose in cold weather, people in poor health should consider hiring plowing services instead, she recommends. Members on Angie’s List say they pay, on average, $64 per service or $424 annually.

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