Local municipalities are prepared for winter with more than enough road salt to make it through the harshest conditions, though they may not need most of it.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), winter weather in the Midwest this season is predicted to be warmer than usual, with forecasted temperatures in the Quad-Cities 33% to 40% above normal.
Rock Island Public Works Director Mike Bartels said the city still had 3,000 tons of salt left from last winter. An order for an additional 4,300 tons was placed to meet contract requirements, which states the city must purchase a minimum of 3,440 tons.
"We have received City Council approval to purchase up to 4,000 tons at $62.91 per ton, for a total cost of $251,640," Bartels said. "We are required by contract to purchase a minimum of 3,440 tons at a cost of $216,410.
"At this time we do not expect to order any new salt until after Jan. 1, 2022, unless required," he said. "If the city was to use the 3,000 tons of salt on hand and purchase the total contract amount allowed of 5,160 tons, we would have a total of approximately 8,160 tons available for this winter season. The city procures salt from the State of Illinois Joint Purchase Contract."
Bartels said most of the city's salt for the winter season already was stockpiled in Rock Island at Alter Logistics, located 1,500 feet away from the public work's salt dome.
Last year, Moline ran low on salt and had to borrow from Rock Island. Bartels said the city of Rock Island was positioned to offer assistance again to any municipality that might need help.
In addition to road salt, Bartels said Rock Island also has the ability to store up to 10,000 gallons of liquid product for treating the roads and mixing with salt.
"The cost delivered to our storage tank is $1 per gallon," he said. "Once ordered, we can generally receive products the next business day. At this time, we do not plan on ordering products until needed."
Municipal Services Manager Rodd Schick said the city of Moline was in good shape with regard to road salt supply, with approximately 3,200 tons of salt left in storage domes from last winter.
The city found itself in a pinch last year when salt supply ran low.
"We did borrow one load of salt from Rock Island because our supply was very low and deliveries had been paused," Schick said. "The deliveries started back up a day later, and the borrowed salt was immediately returned to Rock Island. I do not anticipate having any delivery issues this year."
Schick said the city had a contract this winter with Illinois Department of Central Management Services that requires an 80% minimum and 120% maximum purchase.
"We have to purchase 4,000 tons, and the max we can get is 6,000 tons," he said. "The contract price is $63.14 per ton delivered to the public works garage, so we will have a minimum expenditure of $252,560 this winter for road salt.
"Last winter we used 6,258 tons of salt, and that was quite a bit higher than usual. Including last winter's amount, our five-year average is just over 5,200 tons, so we are in great shape with a potential availability of 9,200 tons of road salt."
Schick said the city did not maintain a supply of organic liquid de-icing fluid but would order it soon. He said the cost was about $2.50 per gallon, and the city typically uses around 40,000 gallons.
"We purchase this product locally, and it is readily available," he said.
Rock Island County
Rock Island County Engineer John Massa said the county had not experienced any supply-chain problems with getting salt delivered. The county has two salt storage buildings; one in Milan and one in Hampton.
"Between the two buildings we have approximately 3,000 tons of salt on hand," Massa said. "By contract, we have 6,000 tons of salt appropriated with the capability of limiting the order to 4,800 tons or extending the order to 7,200 tons, if necessary. We order the salt as our salt storage buildings become low and typically receive the salt within a week.
"We will have enough salt for the winter season."
Including what is currently in storage from last winter season, Massa said the county has spent approximately $140,000 on salt.
"The price of our salt did increase this year," he said. "We will pay $76.14 per ton for salt in Hampton for 1,800 tons appropriated and $63.14 per ton for salt in Milan for 4,200 tons appropriated. This will be approximately $400,000."
Massa said the county also used a product called Biomelt to mix with road salt and to occasionally pre-treat high-traffic areas. He said the county would have 4,000 gallons on hand by the time inclement weather hit the Quad-Cities. At a cost of $2.25 per gallon, the county spent another $5,625 to purchase 2,500 gallons.
Robbin Dunn, communications and preparedness manager for Davenport, said the city currently had 17,500 tons of road salt on hand, enough to last nearly nine months. The city also has 40,000 gallons — or two months' supply — of calcium chloride, the additive used in de-icing, and 20,000 gallons of brine, which is also used for pre-treatment and de-icing.
Dunn said the city's public works facility had the capability to make more brine as needed.
"At full capacity, our salt supply is generally enough for the entire winter season, typically used November through March," Dunn said. "We order calcium chloride as needed, or as stored quantity is consumed. Recent installation of two new 10,000 gallon tanks has also doubled our on-site storage capacity and will allow us to use more pre-wetting — and ultimately less salt — and to order less frequently."
By comparison, Dunn said Davenport road crews used more than 15,000 tons of road salt during the 2020-2021 winter season and only 9,600 tons of road salt during the 2019-2020 winter season. She said the city spent $770,472 to purchase this season's supply of 11,750 tons of road salt.
In anticipation of possible supply-chain issues, Dunn said the city began purchasing road salt much earlier this year.
"The contract was awarded prior to the worsening supply chain conditions which are now evident throughout the country," she said. "Our supplier delivered the quantity specified without major shipping delays.
"The city’s road salt contract contains a provision for a supplemental quantity of salt to be available in addition to the base order should the city require a resupply during the winter. The supplier employs an extensive network of carrier partners for salt delivery and does not anticipate any difficulty filling orders this winter."
In Bettendorf last winter, the public works department burned through 5,750 tons of road salt in what Public Works Director Brian Schmidt said was statistically one of the worst winters it had had with snow and ice removal.
At the end of the season, Bettendorf had about 2,500 unused tons of road salt in store. Schmidt said the city could order another 6,050 tons through a state bid administered through the Iowa Department of Transportation, although the city currently had 8,550 tons available between its order and leftover salt.
"This will be plenty enough to sustain us through this winter," Schmidt said.
He said the city budgeted $400,000 for salt and de-icing materials this year.
The city hasn't experienced issues with obtaining salt or de-icing materials needed for the winter months this year, despite nationwide supply-chain issues affecting deliveries of other materials across the country.
To spread a salty mixture on the roads, Schmidt said the city uses a product called Fusion 55, which is similar to a beet juice the city mixes with salt brine to help coat the salt as it leaves the spreaders. This reduces scatter on the roads and helps the salt adhere to the pavement, he said.
When rock salt doesn’t work, Schmidt said the city mixes liquid calcium chloride to the salt brine to increase its effectiveness.
— Tom Barton and Sarah Watson contributed to this reporting