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Lisbon, Sussex running low on salt

March 4, 2014

Highway superintendents in the Town of Lisbon and the Village of Sussex are facing the possibility of running out of road salt because Canadian salt inventories cannot be shipped across the frozen Great Lakes.

"I am concerned," said Lisbon Public Works Director Joe Klemm, who said he has about 240 to 250 tons of salt stored in the town salt shed. He has another 400 ton in reserve, but "I may never see it."

Klemm explained that the town purchases it salt in bulk as part of a large State of Wisconsin salt contract. The salt is supposed to be delivered from Canada to Jones Island in the Port of the Milwaukee.

However, Klemm and Waukesha County officials say salt is not arriving on the island because it cannot be shipped from Canada across the frozen Great Lakes.

The Village of Sussex is one of nine municipalities in Waukesha County that purchases its salt from the county which is also stored on Jones Island.

Village Administrator Jeremy Smith could not be reached for comment, but other Sussex sources confirmed the village's salt supply is running low.

There are about 3,300 tons of salt remaining that is supposed to used on county roads, state highways in the county, as well as being distributed to municipalities including Sussex, explained Pete Chiadil, highway operations manager for Waukesha County.

In order to stretch the remaining supply, the county is blending salt and sand — about 1/3 salt and 2/3 sand — to be applied on state, county and local roads, according Chiadil.

Chiadil said there is no salt remaining on Jones Island and he does not know when a shipment will arrive.

He said he does not know whether the salt company has run out of supply or whether the supply lines are frozen. Chiadil said he believed that Straights of Mackinaw may be frozen and ships from Lake Erie cannot get into Lake Michigan.

Chiadil and Klemm said subtle changes in weather make it difficult to predict how much more salt they will need this season.

For example, Klemm had to use 60 to 70 tons of salt this past weekend even though there was relatively little snow.

Because road temperatures are still cold, even small amounts of snow tend to accumulate and begin to freeze. The intersections, hills and curves must be salted otherwise the snow will freeze and is more difficult to remove by plow, Klemm said.

Chiadil added that usually by the second week in March there have been enough warmer days to increase road surface temperatures which melts any falling snow before it can accumulate and freeze.

Klemm noted that truck weight limits on town roads were posted on March 13 of last year. The posting of the weight limits is usually a sign that the ground is beginning to thaw. This year the ground is likely to remain frozen by March 13, Klemm added.

Klemm said the town would increase its use of sand as a substitute for salt. Chiadil said the county is experimenting with several different alternatives, including beet juice, to help reduce the amount of salt needed on roads and streets.

However, he said this year the road surface temperatures have not been able to warm up because of near zero temperatures at night.

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