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Metro Detroit contractors facing salt shortage as more snow is in the forecast

Posted at 10:18 PM, Feb 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-02 23:15:54-05

Metro Detroit may soon suffer from a salt shortage, just as we are on the precipice of multiple winter weather events.

It has some local contractors worried that people will get hurt - and they’ll get sued.

Government bodies like the state and local cities take priority in getting salt when its available, so they can treat major highways and roads.

But when there isn’t any salt left for the contractors hired to clear major parking lots like your local Meijer, that’s where there’s a problem.

“Thousand of guys just like me in metro Detroit that are scrambling right now to do everything in their power to get salt,” is how contractor Ron Davis describes it.

Contractors like Davis are caught between a salt rock and a hard place. He paid for a season’s supply of salt months ago.

“I’ve only used 30 percent of what I’ve paid for, 40 percent of what I paid for,” he says.

As for what happened to the rest of it?

“It’s been taken to give to municipalities, the state,” he says.

The problem started with a long December freeze blocking the Great Lakes shipping lanes, so the big boats can’t get the salt from the big mines to Detroit.

If it does come, public safety takes precedence, so local and state agencies tasked with clearing the cold concrete of highways and roadways get the salt first, leaving contractors empty handed according to salt distributor Kevin Main.

“Contractors who thought that they had material on contract reserved and deposited on, all that’s been gone. All vanished,” Main says. “Commercial market includes all the big box stores, some schools.”

“My job is to protect my customers. So I’m doing all kinds of stuff. I’m going to liquid. I’m going to brine,” Davis says.

Davis says he’s forking up extra cash to go out of state to try and find any salt to replace what he reserved - at double or triple the original price.

“In addition to it, now I’m going to have more lawsuits because people are going to slip and fall because I cant service it the way we really need to,” Davis says. “Can only scrap so much we can only remove so much but I can’t remove the ice. I can’t remove the black ice. I can’t remove those things that cause injuries.”